LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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Letters and Journals of Lord Byron
Lord Byron to Thomas Moore, 6 November 1816

Life of Byron: to 1806
Life of Byron: 1806
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Life of Byron: 1808
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Life of Byron: 1810
Life of Byron: 1811
Life of Byron: 1812
Life of Byron: 1813
Life of Byron: 1814
Life of Byron: 1815
Life of Byron: 1816 (I)
Life of Byron: 1816 (II)
Life of Byron: 1817
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Life of Byron: 1819
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Life of Byron: 1821
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Life of Byron: 1824
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“Verona, November 6th, 1816.

“Your letter, written before my departure from England, and addressed to me in London, only reached me recently. Since that period, I have been over a portion of that part of Europe which I had

* With Milan, however, or its society the noble traveller was far from being pleased, and in his Memoranda I recollect, he described his stay there to be “like a ship under quarantine.” Among other persons whom he met in the society of that place was M. Beyle, the ingenious author of “L’Histoire de la Peinture en Italie,” who thus describes the impression their first interview left upon him.

“Ce fut pendant l’automne de 1816, que je la rencontrai en théatre de la Scala, à Milan, dans la loge de M. Louis de Bréme. Je fus frappé des yeux de Lord Byron au moment où il écoutait un sestetto d’un opéra de Mayer intitulé Elena. Je n’ai vu de ma vie, rien de plus beau ni de plus expressif. Encore aujourd’hui, si je viens à penser à l’expression qu’un grand peintre devrait donner au génie, cette tête sublime reparaît tout-à-coup devant moi. J’eus un instant d’enthousiasme, et oubliant la juste répugnance que tout homme un peu fier doit avoir à se faire présenter a un pair d’Angletarre, je priai M. de Bréme de m’introduire à Lord Byron. Je me trouvai le lendemain à diner chez M. de Bréme, avec lui, et le célèbre Monti, l’immortel auteur de la Basvigliana. On parla poésie, on en vint à demander quels étaient les douze plus beaux vers faits depuis un siécle, en Français, en Italien, en Anglais. Les Italiens présens s’accordèrent à désigner les douze premiere vers de la Mascheroniana de Monti, comme ce que l’on avait fait de plus beau dans leur langue, depuis cent ans. Monti voulut bien nous les réciter. Je regardai Lord Byron, il fut ravi. La nuance de hauteur, ou plutôt l’air d’un homme qui se trouve avoir à repousser une importunité, qui déparait un peu sa belle figure, disparut tout-à-coup pour faire à l’expression du bonheur. Le premier chant de la Mascheroniana, que Monti récita presque en entier, vaincu par les acclamations des auditeurs, causa la plus vive sensation à l’auteur de Childe Harold. Je n’oublierai jamais l’expression divine de ses traits; c’était l’alr serein de la puissance et du génie, et suivant moi, Lord Byron n’avait, en ce moment, aucune affectation à se reprocher.”

48 NOTICES OF THE A. D. 1816.

not already seen. About a month since, I crossed the Alps from Switzerland to Milan, which I left a few days ago, and am thus far on my way to Venice, where I shall probably winter. Yesterday I was on the shores of the Benacus, with his fluctibus et fremitu.
Catullus’s Sirmium has still its name and site, and is remembered for his sake; but the very heavy autumnal rains and mists prevented our quitting our route (that is, Hobhouse and myself, who are at present voyaging together), as it was better not to see it at all than to a great disadvantage.

“I found on the Benacus the same tradition of a city still visible in calm weather below the waters, which you have preserved of Lough Neagh, ‘When the clear, cold eve’s declining.’ I do not know that it is authorised by records; but they tell you such a story, and say that the city was swallowed up by an earthquake. We moved to-day over the frontier to Verona, by a road suspected of thieves—‘the wise convey it call,’—but without molestation. I shall remain here a day or two to gape at the usual marvels—amphitheatre, paintings, and all that time-tax of travel—though Catullus, Claudian, and Shakspeare have done more for Verona than it ever did for itself. They still pretend to show, I believe, the ‘tomb of all the Capulets’—we shall see.

“Among many things at Milan, one pleased me particularly, viz., the correspondence (in the prettiest love-letters in the world) of Lucretia Borgia with Cardinal Bembo (who, you say, made a very good cardinal), and a lock of her hair, and some Spanish verses of hers,—the lock very fair and beautiful. I took one single hair of it as a relic, and wished sorely to get a copy of one or two of the letters; but it is prohibited: that I don’t mind; but it was impracticable; and so I only got some of them by heart. They are kept in the Ambrosian Library, which I often visited to look them over—to the scandal of the librarian, who wanted to enlighten me with sundry valuable MSS., classical, philosophical, and pious. But I stick to the Pope’s daughter, and wish myself a cardinal.

“I have seen the finest parts of Switzerland, the Rhine, the Rhone, and the Swiss and Italian lakes; for the beauties of which I refer you to the Guide-book. The north of Italy is tolerably free from the English; but the south swarms with them, I am told. Madame de Staël I saw frequently at Copet, which she renders remarkably pleasant. She has been particularly kind to me. I was for some months her neighbour, in
A. D. 1816. LIFE OF LORD BYRON. 49
a country house called Diodati, which I had on the Lake of Geneva. My plans are very uncertain; but it is probable that you will see me in England in the spring. I have some business there. If you write to me, will you address to the care of
Mons. Hentsch, Banquier, Geneva, who receives and forwards my letters. Remember me to Rogers, who wrote to me lately, with a short account of your poem, which, I trust, is near the light. He speaks of it most highly.

“My health is very endurable, except that I am subject to casual giddiness and faintnesses, which is so like a fine lady, that I am rather ashamed of the disorder. When I sailed, I had a physician with me, whom, after some months of patience, I found it expedient to part with, before I left Geneva some time. On arriving at Milan, I found this gentleman in very good society, where he prospered for some weeks; but, at length, at the theatre he quarrelled with an Austrian officer, and was sent out by the government in twenty-four hours. I was not present at his squabble; but, on hearing that he was put under arrest, I went and got him out of his confinement, but could not prevent his being sent off, which, indeed, he partly deserved, being quite in the wrong, and having begun a row for row’s sake. I had preceded the Austrian government some weeks myself, in giving him his congé from Geneva. He is not a bad fellow, but very young and hot-headed, and more likely to incur diseases than to cure them. Hobhouse and myself found it useless to intercede for him. This happened some time before we left Milan. He is gone to Florence.

“At Milan I saw, and was visited by, Monti, the most celebrated of the living Italian poets. He seems near sixty: in face he is like the late Cooke the actor. His frequent changes in politics have made him very unpopular as a man. I saw many more of their literati; but none whose names are well known in England, except Acerbi. I lived much with the Italians, particularly with the Marquis of Breme’s family, who are very able and intelligent men, especially the Abate. There was a famous improvvisatore who held forth while I was there. His fluency astonished me; but, although I understand Italian, and speak it (with more readiness than accuracy), I could only carry off a few very common-place mythological images, and one line about Artemisia, and another about Algiers,
50 NOTICES OF THE A. D. 1816.
with sixty words of an entire tragedy about Eteocles and Polynices. Some of the Italians liked him—others called his performance ‘seccatura’ (a devilish good word, by the way)—and all Milan was in controversy about him.

“The state of morals in these parts is in some sort lax. A mother and son were pointed out at the theatre, as being pronounced by the Milanese world to be of the Theban dynasty—but this was all. The narrator (one of the first men in Milan) seemed to be not sufficiently scandalized by the taste or the tie. All society in Milan is carried on at the opera: they have private boxes, where they play at cards, or talk, or any thing else; but (except at the Cassino) there are no open houses, or balls, &c. &c. *
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“The peasant girls have all very fine dark eyes, and many of them are beautiful. There are also two dead bodies in fine preservation—one Saint Carlo Boromeo, at Milan; the other not a saint, but a chief, named Visconti, at Monza—both of which appeared very agreeable. In one of the Boromean isles (the Isola bella), there is a large laurel—the largest known—on which Buonaparte, staying there just before the battle of Marengo, carved with his knife the word ‘Battaglia.’ I saw the letters, now half worn out and partly erased.

“Excuse this tedious letter. To be tiresome is the privilege of old age and absence: I avail myself of the latter, and the former I have anticipated. If I do not speak to you of my own affairs, it is not from want of confidence, but to spare you and myself. My day is over—what then?—I have had it. To be sure, I have shortened it; and if I had done as much by this letter, it would have been as well. But you will forgive that, if not the other faults of

“Yours ever and most affectionately,

“P.S. Nov. 7, 1816.

“I have been over Verona. The amphitheatre is wonderful—beats even Greece. Of the truth of Juliet’s story, they seem tenacious to a degree, insisting on the fact—giving a date (1303) and showing a tomb.
A. D. 1816. LIFE OF LORD BYRON. 51
It is a plain, open, and partly decayed sarcophagus, with withered leaves in it, in a wild and desolate conventual garden, once a cemetery, now ruined to the very graves. The situation struck me as very appropriate to the legend, being blighted as their love. I have brought away a few pieces of the granite, to give to my daughter and my nieces. Of the other marvels of this city, paintings, antiquities, &c., excepting the tombs of the Scaliger princes, I have no pretensions to judge. The gothic monuments of the Scaligers pleased me, but ‘a poor virtuoso am I,’ and

“Ever yours.”