LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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The “Pope” of Holland House
John Whishaw to Thomas Smith, 8 November 1815

Chapter I: 1813
Chapter II: 1814
Chapter III: 1815
Chapter IV: 1816
Chapter V: 1817
Chapter VI: 1818
Chapter VII: 1819
Chapter VIII: 1820
Chapter IX: 1821
Chapter X: 1822
Chapter XI: 1824-33
Chapter XII: 1833-35
Chapter XIII: 1806-40
Chapter XIV: Appendix
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Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
Produced by CATH
Nov. 8, 1815.

It is time to say something of my late visit to Holland House, which was a curious moving scene of all nations and languages. Our parties consisted of Bessboroughs and Lord Erskine (without his star),2 Spaniards of various parties (all of them banished or proscribed), a very intelligent deputy from Buenos Ayres, Rogers and the Romillys just arrived from the Continent, and latterly the great sculptor Canova,

1 Sir James Scarlett, first Lord Abinger.

2 The insignia of the Thistle, which Lord Erskine was supposed to wear on every occasion.

and his brother, an Italian Abbate and savant. I must not omit
Miss Fox and Miss Vernon, who were very generally of our parties and great additions to them. By far the most interesting in the group was Canova. To a very striking physiognomy he adds great simplicity of manner, an easy and natural flow of conversation, with occasional traits of gentle unobtrusive humour, great enthusiasm for the Arts, and a disposition apparently the most amiable. He gave us the characters of the late and present Popes, and related with great spirit some of his numerous conversations with Buonaparte, who condescended to talk with him in his native Venetian dialect, and treated him with the greatest kindness, though he pleaded the cause of the Pope, then in captivity, and spoke of war and conquest as the enemies of the Arts with great disrespect. The Abbate Canova is a very pleasing man, but without any marks of the sculptor’s genius. He is entirely devoted to his brother, with whom he constantly lives; and he generally reads to the artist when the latter is engaged at his work. I inquired what were their usual books, and understood that they were generally Italian poets or some of the classic authors, whom the Abbate translated as he read with occasional comments and observations. This seems to me very natural and pleasing, and Lord Holland says it is extremely illustrative of the Venetian character, which is remarkably gentle and amiable.

Canova is extremely pleased with the Elgin Marbles, which he says are alone worth a journey to England. He gives no praise to Westminster Abbey but says, “Il y a quelques beaux idées.


Of our artists, Flaxman is most his favourite. I have not yet heard what he says of our architecture.

Among those whom I met at Holland House I must not forget a young Italian of the name of Binda, who has been an intimate there for a considerable time. His history is somewhat interesting. He was connected with the late Roman and Neapolitan Governments, and has been thrown out of a brilliant career of fortune by the late revolution in Italy. During his prosperity he collected a good library and some curious manuscripts and autographs. These latter he has now brought to England with the intention of disposing of them to the Museum, where there seems to be a disposition to purchase them. I have been of some little use to him in this negotiation, and his gratitude and acknowledgments are unbounded.

He became much connected at Rome last winter with the Hollands and Bedfords, both of whom invited him to England; he is very kind and amiable, and has a great deal of information. I am much disposed to improve my acquaintance with him, and shall have opportunities of doing so as he is likely to remain in England for some little time. If he travels and goes to Bath I may perhaps send him to Easton Grey.