LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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Letters and Journals of Lord Byron
Lord Byron to Thomas Moore, 24 December 1816

Life of Byron: to 1806
Life of Byron: 1806
Life of Byron: 1807
Life of Byron: 1808
Life of Byron: 1809
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
Life of Byron: 1818
Life of Byron: 1819
Life of Byron: 1820
Life of Byron: 1821
Life of Byron: 1822
Life of Byron: 1823
Life of Byron: 1824
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“Venice, December 24th, 1816.

“I have taken a fit of writing to you, which portends postage—once from Verona—once from Venice, and again from Venice—thrice that is. For this you may thank yourself, for I heard that you complained of my silence—so, here goes for garrulity.

“I trust that you received my other twain of letters. My ‘way of life’ (or ‘May of life,’ which is it, according to the commentators?)—my ‘way of life’ is fallen into great regularity. In the mornings I go over in my gondola to hobble Armenian with the friars of the convent of St. Lazarus, and to help one of them in correcting the English of an English and Armenian grammar which he is publishing. In the evenings I do one of many nothings—either at the theatres, or some of the conversaziones, which are like our routs, or rather worse, for the women sit in a semicircle by the lady of the mansion, and the men stand about the room. To be sure, there is one improvement upon ours—instead of lemonade with their ices, they hand about stiff rum-punch—punch, by my palate; and this they think English. I would not disabuse, them of so agreeable an error,—‘no, not for Venice.’

56 NOTICES OF THE A. D. 1816.

“Last night I was at the Count Governor’s, which, of course, comprises the best society, and is very much like other gregarious meetings in every country,—as in ours,—except that, instead of the Bishop of Winchester, you have the Patriarch of Venice; and a motley crew of Austrians, Germans, noble Venetians, foreigners, and, if you see a quiz, you may be sure he is a Consul. Oh, by the way, I forgot, when I wrote from Verona, to tell you that at Milan I met with a countryman of yours—a colonel * * * *, a very excellent, good-natured fellow, who knows and shows all about Milan, and is, as it were, a native there. He is particularly civil to strangers, and this is his history,—at least, an episode of it.

“Six-and-twenty years ago Col. * * * *, then an ensign, being in Italy, fell in love with the Marchesa * * * *, and she with him. The lady must be, at least, twenty years his senior. The war broke out; he returned to England, to serve—not his country, for that’s Ireland—but England, which is a different thing; and she—heaven knows what she did. In the year 1814, the first annunciation of the Definitive Treaty of peace (and tyranny) was developed to the astonished Milanese by the arrival of Col. * * * *, who, flinging himself full length at the feet of Madame * * * *, murmured forth, in half-forgotten Irish Italian, eternal vows of indelible constancy. The lady screamed and exclaimed, ‘Who are you?’ The Colonel cried, ‘What, don’t you know me? I am so and so,’ &c. &c. &c.; till, at length, the Marchesa, mounting from reminiscence to reminiscence, through the lovers of the intermediate twenty-five years, arrived at last at the recollection of her povero sub-lieutenant. She then said, ‘Was there ever such virtue?’ (that was her very word) and, being now a widow, gave him apartments in her palace, reinstated him in all the rights of wrong, and held him up to the admiring world as a miracle of incontinent fidelity, and the unshaken Abdiel of absence.

“Methinks this is as pretty a moral tale as any of Marmontel’s. Here is another. The same lady, several years ago, made an escapade with a Swede, Count Fersen (the same whom the Stockholm mob quartered and lapidated not very long since), and they arrived at an Osteria on the road to Rome or thereabouts. It was a summer evening, and, while they were at supper, they were suddenly regaled by a symphony
A. D. 1816. LIFE OF LORD BYRON. 57
of fiddles in an adjacent apartment, so prettily played, that, wishing to hear them more distinctly, the Count rose, and going into the musical society, said, ‘Gentlemen, I am sure that, as a company of gallant cavaliers, you will be delighted to show your skill to a lady, who feels anxious,’ &c. &c. The men of harmony were all acquiescence—every instrument was tuned and toned, and, striking up one of their most ambrosial airs, the whole band followed the Count to the lady’s apartment. At their head was the first fiddler, who, bowing and fiddling at the same moment, headed his troop and advanced up the room. Death and discord—it was the Marquis himself, who was on a serenading party in the country, while his spouse had run away from town. The rest may be imagined—but, first of all, the lady tried to persuade him that she was there on purpose to meet him, and had chosen this method for an harmonic surprise. So much for this gossip, which amused me when I heard it, and I send it to you, in the hope it may have the like effect. Now we’ll return to Venice.

“The day after to-morrow (to-morrow being Christmas-day) the Carnival begins. I dine with the Countess Albrizzi and a party, and go to the opera. On that day the Phenix (not the Insurance Office, but) the theatre of that name, opens: I have got me a box there for the season, for two reasons, one of which is, that the music is remarkably good. The Contessa Albrizzi, of whom I have made mention, is the De Staël of Venice, not young, but a very learned, unaffected, good-natured woman, very polite to strangers, and, I believe, not at all dissolute, as most of the women are. She has written very well on the works of Canova, and also a volume of Characters, besides other printed matter. She is of Corfu, but married a dead Venetian—that is, dead since he married.

“My flame (my ‘Donna’ whom I spoke of in my former epistle, my Marianna) is still my Marianna, and I, her—what she pleases. She is by far the prettiest woman I have seen here, and the most loveable I have met with any where—as well as one of the most singular. I believe I told you the rise and progress of our liaison in my former letter. Lest that should not have reached you, I will merely repeat that she is a Venetian, two-and-twenty years old, married to a merchant well to do in
58 NOTICES OF THE A. D. 1816.
the world, and that she has great black oriental eyes, and all the qualities which her eyes promise. Whether being in love with her has steeled me or not, I do not know; but I have not seen many other women who seem pretty. The nobility, in particular, are a sad-looking race—the gentry rather better. And now, what art thou doing?
“What are you doing now,
Oh Thomas Moore?
What are you doing now,
Oh Thomas Moore?
Sighing or suing now,
Rhyming or wooing now,
Billing or cooing now,
Which, Thomas Moore?
Are you not near the Luddites? By the Lord! if there’s a row, but I’ll be among ye! How go on the weavers—the breakers of frames—the Lutherans of politics—the reformers?
“As the Liberty lads o’er the sea
Bought their freedom, and cheaply, with blood,
So we, boys, we
Will die fighting, or live free,
And down with all kings but King Ludd!
“When the web that we weave is complete,
And the shuttle exchanged for the sword,
We will fling the winding-sheet
O’er the despot at our feet,
And dye it deep in the gore he has pour’d.
“Though black as his heart its hue,
Since his veins are corrupted to mud,
Yet this is the dew
Which the tree shall renew
Of Liberty, planted by Ludd!
There’s an amiable chanson for you—all impromptu. I have written it
A. D. 1816. LIFE OF LORD BYRON. 59
principally to shock your neighbour
* * * *, who is all clergy and loyalty—mirth and innocence—milk and water.
“But the Carnival’s coming,
Oh Thomas Moore,
The Carnival’s coming,
Oh Thomas Moore,
Masking and humming,
Fifing and drumming,
Guitarring and strumming,
Oh Thomas Moore.
The other night I saw a new play,—and the author. The subject was the sacrifice of Isaac. The play succeeded, and they called for the author—according to continental custom—and he presented himself, a noble Venetian, Mali, or
Malapiero, by name. Mala was his name, and pessima his production,—at least, I thought so, and I ought to know, having read more or less of five hundred Drury-lane offerings, during my coadjutorship with the sub-and-super Committee.

“When does your Poem of Poems come out? I hear that the E. R. has cut up Coleridge’s Christabel, and declared against me for praising it. I praised it, firstly, because I thought well of it; secondly, because Coleridge was in great distress, and, after doing what little I could for him in essentials, I thought that the public avowal of my good opinion might help him further, at least with the booksellers. I am very sorry that J * * has attacked him, because, poor fellow, it will hurt him in mind and pocket. As for me, he’s welcome—I shall never think less of J * * for any thing he may say against me or mine in future.

“I suppose Murray has sent you, or will send (for I do not know whether they are out or no) the poem, or poesies, of mine, of last summer. By the mass! they’re sublime—‘Ganion Coheriza’—gainsay who dares! Pray, let me hear from you, and of you, and, at least, let me know that you have received these three letters. Direct, right here, poste restante.

“Ever and ever, &c.

“P.S. I heard the other day of a pretty trick of a bookseller, who has published some d—d nonsense, swearing the bastards to me, and
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saying he gave me five hundred guineas for them. He lies—I never wrote such stuff, never saw the poems, nor the publisher of them, in my life, nor had any communication, directly or indirectly, with the fellow. Pray say as much for me, if need be. I have written to
Murray, to make him contradict the impostor.”