LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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Letters and Journals of Lord Byron
Lord Byron to John Murray, 21 February 1820

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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“Ravenna, Feb. 21st, 1820.

“The bull-dogs will be very agreeable. I have only those of this country, who, though good, have not the tenacity of tooth and stoicism in endurance of my canine fellow-citizens: then pray send them by the readiest conveyance—perhaps best by sea. Mr. Kinnaird will disburse for them, and deduct from the amount on your application or that of Captain Tyler.

“I see the good old King is gone to his place. One can’t help being sorry, though blindness, and age, and insanity, are supposed to be
302 NOTICES OF THE A. D. 1820.
drawbacks on human felicity; but I am not at all sure that the latter at least might not render him happier than any of his subjects.

“I have no thoughts of coming to the coronation, though I should like to see it, and though I have a right to be a puppet in it; but my division with Lady Byron, which has drawn an equinoctial line between me and mine in all other things, will operate in this also to prevent my being in the same procession.

“By Saturday’s post I sent you four packets, containing Cantos Third and Fourth. Recollect that these two cantos reckon only as one with you and me, being in fact the third canto cut into two, because I found it too long. Remember this, and don’t imagine that there could be any other motive. The whole is about 25 stanzas, more or less, and a lyric of 96 lines, so that they are no longer than the first single cantos: but the truth is, that I made the first too long, and should have cut those down also had I thought better. Instead of saying in future for so many cantos, say so many stanzas or pages: it was Jacob Tonson’s way, and certainly the best; it prevents mistakes. I might have sent you a dozen cantos of 40 stanzas each,—those of ‘The Minstrel’ (Beattie’s) are no longer,—and ruined you at once, if you don’t suffer as it is. But recollect that you are not pinned down to anything you say in a letter, and that, calculating even these two cantos as one only (which they were and are to be reckoned), you are not bound by your offer. Act as may seem fair to all parties.

“I have finished my translation of the First Canto of the ‘Morgante Maggiore’ of Pulci, which I will transcribe and send. It is the parent, not only of Whistlecraft, but of all jocose Italian poetry. You must print it side by side with the original Italian, because I wish the reader to judge of the fidelity: it is stanza for stanza, and often line for line, if not word for word.

“You ask me for a volume of manners, &c. on Italy. Perhaps I am in the case to know more of them than most Englishmen, because I have lived among the natives, and in parts of the country where Englishmen never resided before (I speak of Romagna and this place particularly); but there are many reasons why I do not choose to treat in print on such a subject. I have lived in their houses and in the heart of
A. D. 1820. LIFE OF LORD BYRON. 303
their families, sometimes merely as ‘amico di casa,’ and sometimes as ‘amico di cuore’ of the Dama, and in neither case do I feel myself authorized in making a book of them. Their moral is not your moral; their life is not your life; you would not understand it: it is not English, nor French, nor German, which you would all understand. The conventual education, the cavalier servitude, the habits of thought and living are so entirely different, and the difference becomes so much more striking the more you live intimately with them, that I know not how to make you comprehend a people who are at once temperate and profligate, serious in their characters and buffoons in their amusements, capable of impressions and passions, which are at once sudden and durable (what you find in no other nation), and who actually have no society (what we would call so), as you may see by their comedies; they have no real comedy, not even in
Goldoni, and that is because they have no society to draw it from.

“Their conversazioni are not society at all. They go to the theatre to talk, and into company to hold their tongues. The women sit in a circle, and the men gather into groups, or they play at dreary faro, or ‘lotto reale,’ for small sums. Their academie are concerts like our own, with better music and more form. Their best things are the carnival balls and masquerades, when every body runs mad for six weeks. After their dinners and suppers they make extempore verses and buffoon one another; but it is in a humour which you would not enter into, ye of the north.

“In their houses it is better. I should know something of the matter, having had a pretty general experience among their women, from the fisherman’s wife up to the Nobil Dama, whom I serve. Their system has its rules, and its fitnesses, and its decorums, so as to be reduced to a kind of discipline or game at hearts, which admits few deviations, unless you wish to lose it. They are extremely tenacious, and jealous as furies, not permitting their lovers even to marry if they can help it, and keeping them always close to them in public as in private, whenever they can. In short, they transfer marriage to adultery, and strike the not out of that commandment. The reason is, that they marry for their parents and love for themselves. They exact
304 NOTICES OF THE A. D. 1820.
fidelity from a lover as a debt of honour, while they pay the husband as a tradesman, that is, not at all. You hear a person’s character, male or female, canvassed not as depending on their conduct to their husbands or wives, but to their mistress or lover. If I wrote a quarto, I don’t know that I could do more than amplify what I have here noted. It is to be observed that while they do all this, the greatest outward respect is to be paid to the husbands, not only by the ladies, but by their Serventi—particularly if the husband serves no one himself (which is not often the case, however); so that you would often suppose them relations—the Servente making the figure of one adopted into the family. Sometimes the ladies run a little restive and elope, or divide, or make a scene; but this is at starting, generally, when they know no better, or when they fall in love with a foreigner, or some such anomaly,—and is always reckoned unnecessary and extravagant.

“You inquire after Dante’s Prophecy: I have not done more than six hundred lines, but will vaticinate at leisure.

“Of the bust I know nothing. No cameos or seals are to be cut here or elsewhere that I know of, in any good style. Hobhouse should write himself to Thorwaldsen: the bust was made and paid for three years ago.

“Pray tell Mrs. Leigh to request Lady Byron to urge forward the transfer from the funds. I wrote to Lady Byron on business this post, addressed to the care of Mr. D. Kinnaird.”