LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

The “Pope” of Holland House
John Whishaw to Thomas Smith, 16 February 1817

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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Feb. 16, 1817.

I send you a curious morceau, viz., some extracts and recollection of a journal which I have been allowed to see of Lord Byron, during a short excursion which he has made into Switzerland, accompanied by J. Hobhouse. It is slight and sketchy, but strikes me as being very clever and very characteristic of the man and the poet. Pray show the paper only to particular friends, and take care to give no copy of it.

You say nothing of the “Tales of my Landlord.” They are most extraordinary productions. The second tale (“The Covenanter,”1) is much the best. In nice delineations of character, and freedom and

1Old Mortality.”

The Edgeworths
vigour of colouring, it excels any of the avowed works of
Scott in prose and verse.

I have had an agreeable letter from Miss Edgeworth, and a characteristic one from her father, who writes apparently in great spirits, and seems determined to die hard. Miss E. says that she has two volumes to publish, one of a single tale, and another containing three comic dramas, one in genteel English life, and two in low Irish life. She is very doubtful as to the success of her comedies, which are not intended, she says, for the stage, but simply to try whether the public think she is possessed of dramatic talents. Two Journals of the unfortunate expedition to the Congo have been received at the Admiralty. They are said to be very curious and will shortly be published by Barrow. Notwithstanding the apparent failure, the master of Captain Tuckey’s ship and the surviving officers have written that they are persuaded more discoveries may be made, and they express a strong desire to be allowed to prosecute them. Captain Tuckey made many inquiries concerning the Niger; and the result of the information was, that he believed it to be lost in lakes and swamps, according to the Ptolemaic system.

Brougham is just arrived, and there seems to be a great attendance of parliamentary people, but I do not expect a good division on Tuesday nor a very prosperous Session. Many rumours are spread abroad of differences between the followers of Mr. Fox and of Lord Grenville and Mr. Burke; and I fear they are not altogether unfounded. In this state of things the absence of Horner, who more than any other
Lord Byron’s Journal
individual served as the connecting-link between the two parties, is more particularly to be lamented. If the disunion now spoken of should unfortunately take place, it would end probably in a new Administration formed by the better sort of Tories, and the moderate Whigs; and the Opposition would be reduced nearly to its former contracted state.

Lord Byron went a second time to the château of Chillon, where he has before very minutely examined the dungeons, gallows, places, and instruments of torture.

“On our return,” he says, “we met a party in an English carriage—a lady asleep, fast asleep, in the most anti-narcotic spot in Europe—excellent! I remember at Chamouni, in the very eyes of Mont Blanc, another woman, English also, exclaim to her party, ‘Did you ever see anything more rural?’ as if it were Highgate or Hampstead, or Richmond. Rural! Quotha—rocks—pines—torrents—glaciers—clouds—and summits of eternal snow far above them—and rural!”

At Clarens, the scene of the “Nouvelle Heloise,” Lord B. found the house tenanted by an English lady, and saw Blair’s sermons lying on the table, and some one else’s sermons!

From Chillon to Clarens the whole road, he says, was beautiful as a dream, and now almost as indistinct.

“Among the mountains was a shepherd on a very steep and high cliff playing on his pipe; very different from Arcadia, where I saw the shepherds with long muskets, instead of crooks, and pistols at their
Lord Byron’s Journal
girdles. The pipe was sweet and the tune agreeable. In passing the ravine the guide recommended strongly a quickening of our pace, as the stones fell with great rapidity and occasional damage. The advice was excellent, but, like most good advice, impracticable, the road being so rough that neither mule, horse, nor man make any violent progress. However, we passed without fractures.

“The music of the cows’ bells (for their wealth, like that of the patriarchs, consists in cattle) in pastures that reach to a height far above any mountains in Britain, and the shepherds shouting to us from crag to crag, where the steeps appeared to us inaccessible—these with the charms of the surrounding country scenery realised all that I had heard or imagined of a pastoral existence. Much more so than Greece or Asia Minor; for there we are a little too much in the sabre and musket order, and if there is a crook in one hand, there is sure to be a gun in the other. But this was pure and unmixed, solitary, savage, and patriarchal. As we went, they played the ‘Ranz des vaches’ and other airs, by way of farewell. I have re-peopled my mind with Nature.

“At Lauterbrunnen we found the Swiss curate’s house very good, better than most English vicarages. It is immediately opposite a great torrent, or cascade (900 feet high) which curves over the rock. It is in shape like the tail of a white horse streaming in the wind; such as it might be conceived would be that of the Pale Horse, on which Death is mounted in the Apocalypse. It is neither mist nor water, but something between them both. The immense height gives
Lord Byron’s Journal
it a wavering curve, a spreading here and condensation there, wonderful and indescribable.

“Arrived at the Grindelvald, dined, mounted again, and rode to the higher glacier. Twilight, but distinct; very fine glacier, a frozen hurricane, starlight, beautiful, but the devil of a path. Never mind; got safe down. The whole of the day as fine in point of weather as the day on which Paradise was made.”

In speaking of the appearances on a great mountain which they ascended (the name of which I forgot to take down) he says: “The clouds rose from the opposite valley, curling up perpendicular precipices like the foam of the ocean of hell during a spring tide. It was white and sulphury and immeasurably deep in appearance. The side we ascended was, of course, not so precipitous, but on reaching the summit we looked down upon the other side upon a boiling sea of cloud dashing against the crags on which we stood.

“Being now out of the mountains my journal must be as flat as the country we traversed. From Thun to Berne we had good roads, property, and the commonplace tokens of insipid civilisation.

“Reached Aubonne (the entrance and bridge something like Durham), which commands by far the fairest view of the Lake of Geneva. The light—the moon on the lake—a grove of very noble trees on the height. Here Tavernier, the Eastern traveller, bought or built the château, because the site resembled or equalled that of Erivan, a frontier city of Persia.”