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Letters and Journals of Lord Byron
Lord Byron to John Murray, 8 November 1819

Life of Byron: to 1806
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“Venice, November 8th, 1819.

Mr. Hoppner has lent me a copy of ‘Don Juan,’ Paris edition, which he tells me is read in Switzerland by clergymen and ladies with considerable approbation. In the Second Canto, you must alter the 49th stanza to
“’Twas twilight, and the sunless day went down
Over the waste of waters, like a veil
Which if withdrawn would but disclose the frown
Of one whom hate is mask’d but to assail;
Thus to their hopeless eyes the night was shown,
And grimly darkled o’er their faces pale
And the dim desolate deep; twelve days had Fear
Been their familiar, and now Death was here.

“I have been ill these eight days with a tertian fever, caught in the country on horseback in a thunder-storm. Yesterday I had the fourth

† I beg to say that this report of my opinion of Venice is coloured somewhat too deeply by the feelings of the reporter.

A. D. 1819. LIFE OF LORD BYRON. 283
attack: the two last were very smart, the first day as well as the last being preceded by vomiting. It is the fever of the place and the season. I feel weakened, but not unwell, in the intervals, except headache and lassitude.

Count Guiccioli has arrived in Venice, and has presented his spouse (who had preceded him two months for her health and the prescriptions of Dr. Aglietti) with a paper of conditions, regulations of hours and conduct, and morals, &c. &c. &c., which he insists on her accepting, and she persists in refusing. I am expressly, it should seem, excluded by this treaty, as an indispensable preliminary; so that they are in high dissension, and what the result may be, I know not, particularly as they are consulting friends.

“To-night, as Countess Guiccioli observed me poring over ‘Don Juan,’ she stumbled by mere chance on the 137th stanza of the First Canto, and asked me what it meant. I told her, ‘Nothing,—but ‘your husband is coming.” As I said this in Italian with some emphasis, she started up in a fright, and said, ‘Oh, my God, is he coming?’ thinking it was her own, who either was or ought to have been at the theatre. You may suppose we laughed when she found out the mistake. You will be amused, as I was;—it happened not three hours ago.

“I wrote to you last week, but have added nothing to the Third Canto since my fever, nor to ‘The Prophecy of Dante.’ Of the former there are about 100 octaves done; of the latter about 500 lines—perhaps more. Moore saw the third Juan, as far as it then went. I do not know if my fever will let me go on with either, and the tertian lasts, they say, a good while. I had it in Malta on my way home, and the malaria fever in Greece the year before that. The Venetian is not very fierce, but I was delirious one of the nights with it, for an hour or two, and, on my senses coming back, found Fletcher sobbing on one side of the bed, and La Contessa Guiccioli weeping on the other; so that I

* The following curious particulars of his delirium are given by Madame Guiccioli:—“At the beginning of winter Count Guiccioli came from Ravenna to fetch me. When be arrived, Lord Byron was ill of a fever, occasioned by his having got wet through;—a violent storm having surprised him while taking his usual exercise on horseback. He had been

284 NOTICES OF THE A. D. 1819.
had no want of attendance. I have not yet taken any physician, because, though I think they may relieve in chronic disorders, such as gout and the like, &c &c. &c. (though they can’t cure them)—just as surgeons are necessary to set bones and tend wounds—yet I think fevers quite out of their reach, and remediable only by diet and nature.

“I don’t like the taste of bark, but I suppose that I must take it soon.

“Tell Rose that somebody at Milan (an Austrian, Mr. Hoppner says,) is answering his book. William Bankes is in quarantine at Trieste. I have not lately heard from you. Excuse this paper: it is long paper shortened for the occasion. What folly is this of Carlisle’s trial? why let him have the honours of a martyr? it will only advertise the books in question.

“Yours, &c.

“P.S. As I tell you that the Guiccioli business is on the eve of exploding in one way or the other, I will just add that, without attempting to influence the decision of the Contessa, a good deal depends upon it. If she and her husband make it up, you will perhaps see me in England sooner than you expect. If not, I shall retire with her to France or America, change my name, and lead a quiet provincial life. All this may seem odd, but I have got the poor girl into a scrape; and as neither her birth, nor her rank, nor her connexions by birth or marriage are

delirious the whole night, and I had watched continually, by his bedside. During his delirium he composed a good many verses, and ordered his servant to write them down from his dictation. The rhythm of these verses was quite correct, and the poetry itself had no appearance of being the work of a delirious mind, He preserved them for some time after he got well, and then burned them.”—“Sul cominclare dell’ inverno il Conte Guiccioli venne a prendermi per ricondurmi a Ravenna. Quando egli giunse Ld. Byron era ammalato di febbri prese per essersi bagnato avendolo sorpreso un forte temporale mentre faceva l’usato suo esercizio a cavallo. Egli aveva delirato tutta in notte, ed io aveva sempre vegliato presso al suo letto. Nel suo delirio egli compose molti versi che ordinò al suo domestico di scrivere sotto la sua dittatura. La misura dei versi era esatissima, e la poesia pure non pareva opera di una mente in delirio. Egli la conservò lungo tempo dopo restabilito—poi l’abbrucciò.”

I have been informed, too, that, during his ravings at this time, he was constantly haunted by the idea of his mother-in-law,—taking every one that came near him for her, and reproaching those about him for letting her enter his room.

A. D. 1819. LIFE OF LORD BYRON. 285
inferior to my own, I am in honour bound to support her through. Besides, she is a very pretty woman—ask
Moore—and not yet one and twenty.

“If she gets over this and I get over my tertian, I will perhaps look in at Albemarle-street, some of these days, en passant to Bolivar.”