LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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Letters and Journals of Lord Byron
Lord Byron to John Murray, 27 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, Dec. 27th, 1816.

“As the demon of silence seems to have possessed you, I am determined to have my revenge in postage: this is my sixth or seventh letter since summer and Switzerland. My last was an injunction to contradict and consign to confusion that Cheapside impostor, who (I heard by a letter from your island) had thought proper to append my name to his spurious poesy, of which I know nothing, nor of his pretended purchase or copyright. I hope you have, at least, received that letter.

“As the news of Venice must be very interesting to you, I will regale you with it.

“Yesterday being the feast of St. Stephen, every mouth was put in motion. There was nothing but fiddling and playing on the virginals, and all kinds of conceits and divertisements, on every canal of this aquatic city. I dined with the Countess Albrizzi and a Paduan and Venetian party, and afterwards went to the opera, at the Fenice theatre (which opens for the Carnival on that day),—the finest, by the way, I have ever seen: it beats our theatres hollow in beauty and scenery, and those of Milan and Brescia bow before it. The opera and its sirens were much like other operas and women, but the subject of the said opera was something edifying; it turned—the plot and conduct thereof—upon a fact narrated by Livy of a hundred and fifty married ladies having
66 NOTICES OF THE A. D. 1816.
poisoned a hundred and fifty husbands in good old times. The bachelors of Rome believed this extraordinary mortality to be merely the common effect of matrimony or a pestilence; but the surviving Benedicts, being all seized with the cholic, examined into the matter, and found that ‘their possets had been drugged;’ the consequence of which was, much scandal and several suits at law. This is really and truly the subject of the musical piece at the Fenice; and you can’t conceive what pretty things are sung and recitativoed about the horrenda strage. The conclusion was a lady’s head about to be chopped off by a lictor, but (I am sorry to say) he left it on, and she got up and sung a trio with the two Consuls, the Senate in the back-ground being chorus. The ballet was distinguished by nothing remarkable, except that the principal she-dancer went into convulsions because she was not applauded on her first appearance; and the manager came forward to ask if there was ‘ever a physician in the theatre.’ There was a Greek one in my box, whom I wished very much to volunteer his services, being sure that in this case these would have been the last convulsions which would have troubled the ballarina; but he would not. The crowd was enormous, and in coming out, having a lady under my arm, I was obliged, in making way, almost to ‘beat a Venetian and traduce the state,’ being compelled to regale a person with an English punch in the guts, which sent him as far back as the squeeze and the passage would admit. He did not ask for another, but, with great signs of disapprobation and dismay, appealed to his compatriots, who laughed at him.

“I am going on with my Armenian studies in a morning, and assisting and stimulating in the English portion of an English and Armenian grammar, now publishing at the convent of St. Lazarus.

“The superior of the friars is a bishop, and a fine old fellow, with the beard of a meteor. Father Paschal is also a learned and pious soul. He was two years in England.

“I am still dreadfully in love with the Adriatic lady whom I spake of in a former letter (and not in this—I add, for fear of mistakes, for the only one mentioned in the first part of this epistle is elderly and bookish, two things which I have ceased to admire), and love in this part of the world is no sinecure. This is also the season when every body make up
A. D. 1817. LIFE OF LORD BYRON. 67
their intrigues for the ensuing year, and cut for partners for the next deal.

“And now, if you don’t write, I don’t know what I won’t say or do, nor what I will. Send me some news—good news.

“Yours very truly, &c. &c. &c.

“P.S. Remember me to Mr. Gifford, with all duty.

“I hear that the Edinburgh Review has cut up Coleridge’s Christabel, and me for praising it, which omen, I think, bodes no great good to your forthcome or coming Canto and Castle (of Chillon). My run of luck within the last year seems to have taken a turn every way; but never mind, I will bring myself through in the end—if not, I can be but where I began. In the mean time, I am not displeased to be where I am—I mean, at Venice. My Adriatic nymph is this moment here, and I must therefore repose from this letter.”