LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

Astarte: a Fragment of Truth
Lord Byron to Lady Byron, 20 July 1819

I. Byron Characteristics
II. Three Stages of Lord Byron’s Life
III. Manfred
IV. Correspondence of Augusta Byron
V. Anne Isabella Byron
VI. Lady Byron’s Policy of Silence
VII. Informers and Defamers
VIII. “When We Dead Awake”
IX. Lady Byron and Mrs. Leigh (I)
X. Lady Byron and Mrs. Leigh (II)
XI. Byron and Augusta
Notes by the Editor
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Ravenna. July 20th 1819.

I have received from Holstein (I believe) the annexed paper of the Baroness of Hohenhausen &c. and the inclosed letter of a Mr. Jacob (or Jacobssen) and as they “ardently wish it could reach you” I transmit it. You will smile, as I have done, at the importance which they attach to such things, and the effect which they conceive capable of being produced by composition, but the Germans are still a young and a romantic people, and live in an ideal world. Perhaps it may not offend you, however it may surprise, that the good people on the frontiers of Denmark have taken an interest in your domestic Affairs, which have now, I think, nearly made the tour of Europe, and been discussed in most of its languages, to as little purpose as in our own. If you like to retain the enclosed, you can do so, an indication to my Sister that you have received the letter will be a sufficient answer. I will not close this sheet without a few words more. Fletcher has complained to me of your declining to give his wife a character, on account of your “doubts of her veracity in some circumstances a short time before she left you.” If your doubts allude to her testimony on your case during the then discussion, you must or at least ought to be the best judge how far she spoke truth or not; I can only say that She never had directly or indirectly, through me or mine, the
slightest inducement to the contrary, nor am I indeed perfectly aware of what her Evidence was, never having seen her nor communicated with her at that period or since. I presume that you will weigh well your justice before you deprive the woman of the means of obtaining her bread. No one can be more fully aware than I am of the utter inefficacy of any words of mine to you on this or on any other subject, but I have discharged my duty to Truth in stating the above, and now do yours.

The date of my letter, indeed my letter itself, may surprize you, but I left Venice in the beginning of June, and came down into Romagna; there is the famous forest of Boccacio’s Story and Dryden’s fable hardby, the Adriatic not far distant, and the Sepulchre of Dante within the walls. I am just going to take a Canter (for I have resumed my Tartar habits since I left England) in the cool of the Evening, and in the shadow of the forest till the Ave Maria. I have got both my saddle and Carriage horses with me, and don’t spare them, in the cooler part of the day. But I shall probably return to Venice in a short time. Ravenna itself preserves perhaps more of the old Italian manners than any City in Italy. It is out of the way of travellers and armies, and thus they have retained more of their originality. They make love a good deal, and assassinate a little. The department is governed by a Cardinal Legate (Alberoni was once legate here) to whom I have been presented and who told me some singular anecdotes of past times—of Alfieri &c. and others. I tried to discover for Leigh Hunt some traces of Francesca, but except her father Guido’s tomb, and the mere notice of the fact in the Latin commentary of Benvenuto da Imola in M.S. in the library, I could discover nothing for him. He (Hunt) has made a sad mistake about “old Ravenna’s clear-shewn towers and bay” the city lies so low that you must be close upon it before it is “shewn” at all, and the Sea had retired four miles at least, long before Francesca was born, and as far back as the Exarchs and Emperors. They tell me that at Rimini they know as
little about her now—as they do here—so I have not gone there, it lies in the way to Rome, but I was at Rome in 1817. This is odd, for at Venice I found many traditions of the old Venetians, and at Ferrara a plentiful assortment of the House of Este, with the remains of the very Mirror, whose reflection cost at least a dozen lives, including those of Parisina and Ugo. I was wrong in placing those two naughty people in a garden. Parisina was a Malatesta of Rimini, and her daughter by Niccolo of Este was also put to death by some Italian Chief her husband in nearly the same manner as her mother. Her name was Ginevra. So that including the alliance of Francesca with Launcelot Malatesta of Rimini, that same Malatesta family appears to have been but indifferently fortunate in their matrimonial speculations——I have written to you thus much, because in writing to you at all I may as well write much as little. I have not heard of
Ada for many months but they say “no news is good news” she must now be three years and almost eight months old. You must let her be taught Italian as soon as she can be taught any language but her own, and pray let her be musical, that is if She has a turn that way. I presume that Italian being a language of mine, will not prevent you from recollecting my request at the proper time.

I am
Bologna. August 31st.

This letter was written as far back as July 20th at Ravenna, but I delayed putting it in the post till my return here which will account for the interval between the date and the arrival of the letter, if it arrives. Pray state to Augusta that you have received it, on account of the inclosures. I want no other answer. I should like to have a picture of Miss Byron, when she can conveniently sit to Holmes or any other painter. Addio.