LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

Memoirs of the Affairs of Greece
Chapter VIII

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
Chapter XXVII
Chapter XXVIII
Chapter XXIX
Chapter XXX
Chapter XXXI
Chapter XXXII
Chapter XXXIII
Chapter XXXIV
Chapter XXXV
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Publication of a newspaper—Conduct of Dr. Meyer, as editor—Establishment of an hospital—Author appointed to the superintendence of it—Lord Byron sails from Zante—Danger of falling into the hands of the Turks—His escape—Lands at Mesolonghi—Generous conduct of Mahmoud Capitan.

The publication of a newspaper, which appeared at this time, produced little or no sensation on the Mesolonghiots. The greater part of the military chiefs, both in Peloponnesus and Continental Greece, could not read; and among the primates, as the event proved, few gave themselves the trouble of looking at a paper. Indeed there were not in the whole country forty Greek subscribers; and had it not been for the numerous subscriptions from the Ionian Islands and London, the printer would not have had sufficient money to pay even for his ink. If, under the circumstances of the moment, a newspaper could have been productive of advantage to the Greek public, it should have been written in a spirit very different from that, which animated the articles of the Greek Chronicle.

The first step towards the establishment of a free press, as Lord Byron justly observed, was the formation of a corps, whose only occupation should be, to act as body guard to the printing-office and editor. For in case he thought fit to expose and inveigh against the numberless and crying abuses of a powerful capitano, who should insure him against the resentment of the barbarian, or that of his friends? If Lord Byron did not approve Colonel Stanhope’s opinion, it was not because his lordship was not a liberal; but because he foresaw, that not only no sort
of advantage would accrue from it to the nation at large, but that it would become a firebrand of discord at home, and increase the number of enemies abroad. Had the colonel made more use of his reflection, would he not have perceived how injudicious it was, at a moment when many of the powers were looking on the Greek revolution with jealousy and suspicion, to incite the editor to comment boldly, not only on their hostile dispositions towards Greece, but to declaim against their internal tyrannical administration? So completely heedless of the consequences was
Dr. Meyer, that he published in the 20th number of his newspaper an address to the Hungarians, conceived in so liberal and revolutionary a language, that it could not fail to excite the animadversion of the court of Vienna, already so ill-disposed towards Greece; and induce her perhaps to take measures to hasten the ruin of her rising liberties. Lord Byron felt himself in duty bound to destroy every copy of that number, and obliged the editor solemnly to promise the government, that he would abstain from any critical observations on the political conduct of European cabinets.

The proposals for the construction of proper roads for the sake of facilitating the communication of ideas, trade, and personal intercourse, surprised the military chiefs not a little. The improvement of roads would facilitate invasions, by opening a passage for the enemy’s cavalry, provisions, heavy artillery, &c. &c.; while their present state offered no hinderance to the light armed Greek, who, even during the longest march, unincumbered by baggage, climbs the steepest ascents with almost as much ease as he walks along the plain. In fact not a single achievement of any note has taken place since the beginning of the Greek revolution, that did not owe its success chiefly to the
difficulties of the roads, fords or passes, which are the elements, as it were, of guerilla warfare.

When the establishment of an hospital was proposed to Mavrocordato, to the primates of Mesolonghi, and the capitani, they unanimously concurred in saying, that nothing was more necessary; and that it would be accompanied by inexpressible advantages to their countrymen. In no part of Greece was the necessity of a similar institution more lamentably felt. During every invasion, when its fortifications afforded shelter to the weaker part of the population of Western Greece, the concourse of so many human beings, the insalubrious air, and the privations endured, constantly brought on a multitude of complaints; more especially from the mountaineers, who either languished or perished for want of medical attendance. More than once have I witnessed the heartrending scene of strangers dying, unheeded, in the open streets of the town they had come to defend. On hearing that the London Greek Committee and the Society of Friends had sent, at their own expense, medicines, instruments and medical men, the Greeks expressed their gratitude in the warmest terms. But when after these preliminaries the colonel added, to the primates of Mesolonghi, that he expected they would have no difficulty in allotting one of the Turkish houses for the reception of the sick, furnish it with beds, linen, &c., and allow a certain sum for the maintenance of patients, servants and convalescents; a most striking change took place in their physiognomy; and, after many protestations of utter poverty, unequalled by those of the most eloquent mendicant, they declared themselves unable to complete that charitable work. It certainly required no small share of barefacedness to make such assertions before individuals, who all the while admired the beauty of
their dress and their glittering arms; and who knew, that the sequins, covering the feri and adorning the tresses of one of their wives, or the doubloons which, linked together, formed a triangular breast-plate, would suffice to defray those trifling expenses for many years. The proposal made to them of selling one of the numerous Turkish properties, and appropriating the money to the desired purpose, was declared impracticable; and after repeated procrastination, they ended by a long litany of difficulties, complaints and fanciful stories, capable of disheartening the warmest philanthropist.

Obliged for the moment to give up every hope of inducing the Greeks to contribute to the establishment of an hospital, but anxious to enter immediately into the performance of my medical duties, I mentioned to Colonel Stanhope, that nothing could be now done for the relief of the indigent sick and soldier, than to establish a dispensary on a footing, similar to those in England. Having obtained his permission, I caused the following notice to be printed, and circulated through the town.


“A public dispensary will be opened at Mesolonghi on the 10th of January, under the superintendence of Mr. J. Millingen.

“The chief object of this institution is to give medical advice and medicines, gratis, to the poor and soldiers. Every one else may, however, receive medicines and apply for advice, by paying a moderate consideration.

“In order to prevent abuses, the soldiers are expected to bring a certificate from their capitano; and the poor, one, undersigned by a magistrate.

“The indigent sick, who are confined to their beds,
will be regularly visited; others will present themselves to the director of the dispensary, who may daily be found at the Chani, close to the seraglio, two hours before mid-day.

“A similar establishment will shortly be formed at Athens, by Mr. Tindall, who, as well as Mr. Millingen, has been sent by the Greek Committee of London.”

While the colonel was displaying, to so little purpose, the warmest zeal, and the most exemplary patience, in the endeavour to realize the chief objects of his mission; an event took place, which served to display how lively the interest was, which the expectation of Lord Byron’s arrival had raised among the inhabitants of Western Greece. The information, brought by a Zantiot boat, that his lordship would positively sail from that island on the 30th of December, spread universal joy. In the afternoon of that day, while every one was trying to descry the wished-for sail, the Turkish vessels came out of the gulf; and on the appearance of this superior force, the Greek ships, then at anchor off Mesolonghi, cut their cables and took to flight. It was instantly conjectured, that Youssouf Pasha, apprized by his agents at Zante of Lord Byron’s departure, had ordered his vessels to intercept him on his passage; and this seemed the more probable, as they were seen to establish a regular cruize between the Scrofes and Cape Papa. The people vented their execrations against the Spezziots. “If they thought themselves not fit to cope with the superior force of the enemy,” said they, “could they not have kept up for some time a lively cannonade, in order to apprize Lord Byron, whom they knew to be at sea, that danger existed?”


Convinced from the information, received before leaving Zante, that the enemy’s ships were within the Gulf of Corinth, he advanced in all security of mind in his mistico. Two hours before daylight, he found himself near a large vessel, which mistaking, in the obscurity, for a Greek, he ordered the man at the helm to approach. The confused cries of the Turkish sailors made him soon aware of his error. Profiting of the darkness and of the freshness of the breeze, he hastened to steer towards the Scrofes, that fortunately were nigh, and where the frigate sought in vain to follow him. His anxiety, as he confessed himself, while relating this hair-breadth escape, was, on this occasion, excessive. Little moved by the sense of his own danger, he trembled for the Suliots and other Greeks who were with him. He knew that, had the boat been taken, they would have been inhumanly put to death. His noble and impetuous character would not have allowed him to see a similar spectacle, without attempting to defend them; and in so doing, he would, no doubt, have met the same fate as his followers.

A violent tempest arose the next morning, and lasted three days without intermission. Surrounded by rocks on every side, the sailors, thinking their fate inevitable, had lost all courage. Lord Byron’s tranquillity of mind was undisturbed. Aware that, should the miserable anchor they had give way, the ship would be dashed to atoms, he had recommended to Lucca, a young Greek of Patras, confided to his benevolence by the youth’s mother, to keep himself ready in case of a similar accident, to mount on his back, for he would save him by swimming. Moments like these were highly congenial to his muse. A storm was for him a source of poetical delight; and
he wrote, with a pencil, while the boat was tossing about, some stanzas on the Suliots, which, according to him, would not be ranked among his worst.

After the tempest had somewhat subsided, though the sea continued much agitated, he leapt into the waves; and, accompanied by Lion, his favourite Newfoundland dog, for about two hours took delight in riding on the heaving billows. He then wrote a note to Colonel Stanhope, informing him where his mistico lay; and requesting to be apprized whether he might venture to Mesolonghi without danger. Mavrocordato immediately despatched five armed boats and a Greek brig, which invited his lordship to Vasiladi, and on the 6th of January, he landed at Mesolonghi, in the midst of the acclamations of a numerous population and soldiers, who had assembled on the beach; Mavrocordato, the capitani and primates, advancing to receive and welcome him.

How different were his feelings, this day, on treading the same soil, which, a few years before, he had visited when enslaved! It was now free. The Raya, whom he then saw vilely crouching at his master’s feet, now rent the air with cries of ζητα ελεϑερια. Proud of having reassumed his forgotten name of Hellen, he celebrated the arrival of Byron with the reiterated sounds of those arms, which had laid low many of the proud oppressors of Greece. The joy, inspired by Lord Byron’s presence, was as universal as it was sincere. His reception resembled a triumph; for every one hailed him as a deliverer, whose hand was to heal the calamities yet brooding over Greece. In this happy moment of illusion, every one, banishing fear from his mind, considered the day the brightest of his life; since it brought amongst them the surest earnest of independence and prosperity.

The cutter, in which Count Gamba had embarked,
and which contained the greater part of the money,
Lord Byron had thought expedient to bring over to Greece, was not equally fortunate in avoiding the enemy; though at last it escaped from their hands in a manner yet more surprising. Towards day-break, having fallen in with the same Turkish frigate, its commander, Mahmoud Capitan, ordered the Zantiot captain on board; and, brandishing his scimitar over his head, asked him whether he dared to say, that he was not bound for Mesolonghi. Valsamachi was so terror-struck by his threatening mien, that, losing all presence of mind, he confessed that he was proceeding to that town. He had scarcely terminated his imprudent confession, than the Turk raised his arm to cut the Ionian’s head off, and ordered the cutter to be sunk. “Wilt thou destroy,” cried the Greek, “the life of him, who saved thine own?” The Turk suspended his blow, and attentively considering him, soon recognised the person, who, some years previous, had saved him after a shipwreck in the Black Sea. He fell on his neck, and embracing him, gave him the promise, that, though, for appearance sake, he must lead him to the Castles, he would exert all his influence to procure his immediate release. Nothing might have been easier than to prove the cutter to be fair prize. Although the clearance was for Calamo, he was taken close to Mesolonghi; the captain and crew had owned, that they were bound for that place; and, notwithstanding the tale made out by Gamba, its falsehood might have been soon demonstrated by inspecting the ship; where printing presses, cannons with Lord Byron’s arms and name, and helmets, could not easily be passed as part of the travelling apparatus of an English gentleman. Let the praise, he so justly deserved, be rendered to Mahmoud. A noble and generous action has double
merit, when it is that of a barbarian and an enemy; and let us not attribute it to his stupidity, as the Mesolonghiots did, incapable of supposing how gratitude can be stronger than avarice.
Youssouf Pasha was so imposed upon by Mahmoud’s report, as to treat the Count with every mark of politeness. After receiving the necessary passport, the cutter sailed from Patras and arrived on the 5th at Mesolonghi.