LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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Letters and Journals of Lord Byron
Lord Byron to John Murray, 2 January 1817

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, Jan. 2, 1817.

“Your letter has arrived. Pray, in publishing the Third Canto, have you omitted any passages? I hope not; and indeed wrote to you on my way over the Alps to prevent such an incident. Say in your next whether or not the whole of the Canto (as sent to you) has been published. I wrote to you again the other day (twice, I think), and shall be glad to hear of the reception of those letters.

“To-day is the 2d of January. On this day three years ago the Corsair’s publication is dated, I think, in my letter to Moore. On this day two years I married, (‘Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth,’—I sha’n’t forget the day in a hurry), and it is odd enough that I this day received a letter from you announcing the publication of Childe Harold, &c. &c. on the day of the date of the ‘Corsair;’ and I also received one from my sister, written on the 10th of December, my daughter’s birthday (and relative chiefly to my daughter), and arriving on the day of the date of my marriage, this present 2d of January, the month of my
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birth,—and various other astrologous matters which I have no time to enumerate.

“By the way, you might as well write to Hentsch, my Geneva banker, and inquire whether the two packets consigned to his care were or were not delivered to Mr. St. Aubyn, or if they are still in his keeping. One contains papers, letters, and all the original MS. of your Third Canto, as first conceived; and the other some bones from the field of Morat. Many thanks for your news, and the good spirits in which your letter is written.

“Venice and I agree very well; but I do not know that I have any thing new to say, except of the last new opera, which I sent in my late letter. The Carnival is commencing, and there is a good deal of fun here and there—besides business; for all the world are making up their intrigues for the season, changing, or going on upon a renewed lease. I am very well off with Marianna, who is not at all a person to tire me; firstly, because I do not tire of a woman personally, but because they are generally bores in their disposition; and, secondly, because she is amiable, and has a tact which is not always the portion of the fair creation; and, thirdly, she is very pretty; and, fourthly,—but there is no occasion for farther specification. * * * * * * * * * So far we have gone on very well; as to the future, I never anticipate,—carpe diem—the past at least is one’s own, which is one reason for making sure of the present. So much for my proper liaison.

“The general state of morals here is much the same as in the Doges’ time: a woman is virtuous (according to the code) who limits herself to her husband and one lover; those who have two, three, or more, are a little wild; but it is only those who are indiscriminately diffuse, and form a low connexion, such as the Princess of Wales with her courier (who, by the way, is made a knight of Malta), who are considered as overstepping the modesty of marriage. In Venice, the nobility have a trick of marrying with dancers and singers; and, truth to say, the women of their own order are by no means handsome; but the general race, the women of the second and other orders, the wives of the merchants, and proprietors, and untitled gentry; are mostly bel’ sangue, and it is with these that the more amatory connexions are usually formed.
A. D. 1817. LIFE OF LORD BYRON. 69
There are also instances of stupendous constancy. I know a woman of fifty who never had but one lover, who dying early, she became devout, renouncing all but her husband. She piques herself, as may be presumed, upon this miraculous fidelity, talking of it occasionally with a species of misplaced morality, which is rather amusing. There is no convincing a woman here that she is in the smallest degree deviating from the rule of right or the fitness of things in having an amoroso. The great sin seems to lie in concealing it, or having more than one, that is, unless such an extension of the prerogative is understood and approved of by the prior claimant.

“In another sheet, I send you some sheets of a grammar*, English

* To the Armenian Grammar mentioned above, the following interesting fragment, found among his papers, seems to have been intended as a Preface.

“The English reader will probably be surprised to find my name associated with a work of the present description, and inclined to give me more credit for my attainments as a linguist than they deserve.

“As I would not willingly be guilty of a deception, I will state, as shortly as I can, my own share in the compilation, with the motives which led to it. On my arrival at Venice in the year 1816, I found my mind in a state which required study, and study of a nature which should leave little scope for the imagination, and furnish some difficulty in the pursuit.

“At this period I was much struck—in common, I believe, with every other traveller—with the society of the Convent of St. Lazarus, which appears to unite all the advantages of the monastic institution, without any of its vices.

“The neatness, the comfort, the gentleness, the unaffected devotion, the accomplishments, and the virtues of the brethren of the order, are well fitted to strike the man of the world with the conviction that ‘there is another and a better’ even in this life.

“These men are the priesthood of an oppressed and a noble nation, which has partaken of the proscription and bondage of the Jews and of the Greeks, without the sullenness of the former or the servility of the latter. This people has attained riches without usury, and all the honours that can be awarded to slavery without intrigue. But they have long occupied, nevertheless, a part of ‘the House of Bondage,’ who has lately multiplied her many mansions. It would be difficult, perhaps, to find the annals of a nation less stained with crimes than those of the Armenians, whose virtues have been those of peace, and their vices those of compulsion. But whatever may have been their destiny—and it has been bitter—whatever it may be in future, their country must ever be one of the most interesting on the globe; and perhaps their language only requires to be more studied to become more attractive. If the Scriptures are rightly understood, it was in Armenia that Paradise was placed—Armenia, which has paid as dearly as the descendants of Adam for that fleeting participation of its soil in the happiness of him who was created from its dust. It was in Armenia that the flood first abated, and the dove alighted. But with the disappearance of Paradise itself may be dated almost the unhappiness of the country. for though long a powerful kingdom, it was scarcely ever an independent one, and the satraps of Persia and the pachas of Turkey have alike desolated the region where God created man in his own image.”

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and Armenian, for the use of the Armenians, of which I promoted, and indeed induced, the publication. (It cost me but a thousand francs—French livres.) I still pursue my lessons in the language without any rapid progress, but advancing a little daily.
Padre Paschal, with some little help from me, as translator of his Italian into English, is also proceeding in a MS. Grammar for the English acquisition of Armenian, which will be printed also, when finished.

“We want to know if there are any Armenian types and letter-press in England, at Oxford, Cambridge, or elsewhere? You know, I suppose, that, many years ago, the two Whistons published in England an original text of a history of Armenia, with their own Latin translation? Do those types still exist? and where? Pray inquire among your learned acquaintance.

“When this Grammar (I mean the one now printing) is done, will you have any objection to take forty or fifty copies, which will not cost in all above five or ten guineas, and try the curiosity of the learned with a sale of them? Say yes or no, as you like. I can assure you that they have some very curious books and MSS., chiefly translations from Greek originals now lost. They are, besides, a much respected and learned community, and the study of their language was taken up with great ardour by some literary Frenchmen in Buonaparte’s time.

“I have not done a stitch of poetry since I left Switzerland, and have not at present the estro upon me. The truth is, that you are afraid of having a Fourth Canto before September, and of another copyright, but I have at present no thoughts of resuming that poem, nor of beginning any other. If I write, I think of trying prose, but I dread introducing living people, or applications which might be made to living people. Perhaps one day or other I may attempt some work of fancy in prose, descriptive of Italian manners and of human passions; but at present I am preoccupied. As for poesy, mine is the dream of the sleeping passions; when they are awake, I cannot speak their language, only in their somnambulism, and just now they are not dormant.

“If Mr. Gifford wants carte blanche as to the Siege of Corinth, he has it, and may do as he likes with it.

“I sent you a letter contradictory of the Cheapside man (who invented the story you speak of) the other day. My best respects to Mr. Gifford, and such of my friends as you may see at your house. I wish you all prosperity and new year’s gratulation, and am

“Yours, &c.”