LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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Letters and Journals of Lord Byron
Lord Byron to Thomas Moore, 25 March 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, March 25th, 1817.

“I have at last learned, in default of your own writing (or not writing—which should it be? for I am not very clear as to the application
86 NOTICES OF THE A. D. 1817.
of the word default) from
Murray, two particulars of (are belonging to) you; one, that you are removing to Hornsey, which is, I presume, to be nearer London; and the other, that your Poem is announced by the name of Lalla Rookh. I am glad of it,—first, that we are to have it at last, and next, I like a tough title myself—witness the Giaour and Childe Harold, which choked half the Blues at starting. Besides, it is the tail of Alcibiades’s dog,—not that I suppose you want either dog or tail. Talking of tail, I wish you had not called it a ‘Persian Tale*.’ Say a ‘Poem’ or ‘Romance,’ but not ‘Tale.’ I am very sorry that I called some of my own things ‘Tales,’ because I think that they are something better. Besides, we have had Arabian, and Hindoo, and Turkish, and Assyrian Tales. But, after all, this is frivolous in me; you won’t, however, mind my nonsense.

“Really and truly, I want you to make a great hit, if only out of self-love, because we happen to be old cronies; and I have no doubt you will—I am sure you can. But you are, I’ll be sworn, in a devil of a pucker; and I am not at your elbow, and Rogers is. I envy him; which is not fair, because be does not envy any body. Mind you send to me—that is, make Murray send—the moment you are forth.

“I have been very ill with a slow fever, which at last took to flying, and became as quick as need be†. But, at length, after a week of half-delirium, burning skin, thirst, hot headache, horrible pulsation, and no sleep, by the blessing of barley water, and refusing to see any physician, I recovered. It is an epidemic of the place, which is annual, and visits strangers. Here follow some versicles, which I made one sleepless night.

* He had been misinformed on this point,—the work in question having been, from the first, entitled an “Oriental Romance.” A much worse mistake (because wilful, and with no very charitable design) was that of certain persons, who would have it that the Poem was meant to be Epic!—Even Mr. D’Israeli has, for the sake of a theory, given in to this very gratuitous assumption:—“The Anacreontic poet (he says) remains only Anacreontic in his Epic.”

† In a note to Mr. Murray, subjoined to some corrections for Manfred, he says, “Since I wrote to you last, the slow fever I wot of thought proper to mend its pace, and became similar to one which I caught some years ago in the marshes of Elis, in the Morea.”

A. D. 1817. LIFE OF LORD BYRON. 87
“I read the ‘Christabel;’
Very well:
I read the ‘Missionary;’
I tried at ‘Ilderim;’
I read a sheet of ‘Marg’ret of Anjou;
Can you?
I turn’d a page of ‘* *’s Waterloo;’
Pooh! pooh!
I look’d at Wordsworth’s milk-white ‘Rylstone Doe:’
&c. &c. &c.”

* * * * * * *
* * * * * * *

“I have not the least idea where I am going, nor what I am to do. I wished to have gone to Rome; but at present it is pestilent with English,—a parcel of staring boobies, who go about gaping and wishing to be at once cheap and magnificent. A man is a fool who travels now in France or Italy, till this tribe of wretches is swept home again. In two or three years the first rush will be over, and the Continent will be roomy and agreeable.

“I staid at Venice chiefly because it is not one of their ‘dens of thieves;’ and here they but pause and pass. In Switzerland it was really noxious. Luckily, I was early, and had got the prettiest place on all the Lake before they were quickened into motion with the rest of reptiles. But they crossed me every where. I met a family of children and old women half-way up the Wengen Alp (by the Jungfrau) upon mules, some of them too old and others too young to be the least aware of what they saw.

“By the way, I think the Jungfrau, and all that region of Alps. which I traversed in September—going to the very top of the Wengen, which is not the highest (the Jungfrau itself is inaccessible) but the best point of view—much finer than Mont-Blanc and Chamouni, or the
88 NOTICES OF THE A. D. 1817.
Simplon. I kept a journal of the whole for my sister Augusta, part of which she copied and let Murray see.

“I wrote a sort of mad Drama, for the sake of introducing the Alpine scenery in description; and this I sent lately to Murray. Almost all the dram. pers. are spirits, ghosts, or magicians, and the scene is in the Alps and the other world, so you may suppose what a bedlam tragedy it must be: make him show it you. I sent him all three acts piecemeal, by the post, and suppose they have arrived.

“I have now written to you at least six letters, or letterets, and all I have received in return is a note about the length you used to write from Bury-street to St. James’s-street, when we used to dine with Rogers, and talk laxly, and go to parties, and hear poor Sheridan now and then. Do you remember one night he was so tipsy that I was forced to put his cocked hat on for him,—for he could not,—and I let him down at Brookes’s, much as he must since have been let down into his grave. Heigh ho! I wish I was drunk—but I have nothing but this d—d barleywater before me.

“I am still in love,—which is a dreadful drawback in quitting a place, and I can’t stay at Venice much longer. What I shall do on this point I don’t know. The girl means to go with me, but I do not like this for her own sake. I have had so many conflicts in my own mind on this subject, that I am not at all sure they did not help me to the fever I mentioned above. I am certainly very much attached to her, and I have cause to be so, if you knew all. But she has a child; and though, like all the ‘children of the sun,’ she consults nothing but passion, it is necessary I should think for both; and it is only the virtuous, like * * * *, who can afford to give up husband and child, and live happy ever after.

“The Italian ethics are the most singular ever met with. The perversion, not only of action, but of reasoning, is singular in the women. It is not that they do not consider the thing itself as wrong, and very wrong, but love (the sentiment of love) is not merely an excuse for it, but makes it an actual virtue, provided it is disinterested, and not a caprice, and is confined to one object. They have awful notions of constancy;
A. D. 1817. LIFE OF LORD BYRON. 89
for I have seen some ancient figures of eighty pointed out as Amorosi of forty, fifty, and sixty years standing. I can’t say I have ever seen a husband and wife so coupled. “Ever, &c.

“P.S. Marianna, to whom I have just translated what I have written on our subject to you, says—‘If you loved me thoroughly, you would not make so many fine reflections, which are only good forbirsi i scarpi,’—that is, ‘to clean shoes withal,’—a Venetian proverb of appreciation, which is applicable to reasoning of all kinds.”