LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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The Last Days of Lord Byron
Chapter VI

Chapter I
Chapter II
Chapter III
Chapter IV
Chapter V
‣ Chapter VI
Chapter VII
Chapter VIII
Chapter IX
Chapter X
Chapter XI
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“Lord Byron awoke in half an hour. I wished to go to him, but I had not the heart.
Mr. Parry went, and Byron knew him again, and squeezed his hand, and tried to
express his last wishes.”—Count Gamba’s Narrative.



I am taken ill—Go to Zante—Grief in Greece at Lord Byron’s Death—Great affliction at Missolonghi—Proclamation of Prince Mavrocordato—Lord Byron’s Papers—Arrival of the Florida, and the Loan—Count Gamba’s Description of the Ceremonies at Missolonghi—Arrival of Colonel Stanhope at Zante—Lord Byron’s Body conveyed to England—Its Arrival—The Funeral—Anecdote of a Sailor—Time and place of Interment.

The history of a man like Lord Byron does not close with his life; and the world generally receives with pleasure, even the most minute details concerning the disposal of his body after death. As far, however, as I am personally able to give any account of what was done with Lord Byron’s corpse, and of the honours paid to his memory, my narrative must be very brief. Unfortunately, I was myself taken ill, before he breathed his last; and was so little able to exert myself, that I was scarcely sensible of what was passing around me. My constitution is naturally a good one, but it was worn down by the climate of such a place as Missolonghi, and the fatigues I had latterly undergone. My health was so deranged, that the medical men advised my removal from the spot, and on April 21st, I left Missolonghi. I arrived at
Zante on the following day, carrying with me the first intelligence of Lord Byron’s death; of course my connexion with him had ceased entirely. I can scarcely say, that I was a witness even of what occurred at Missolonghi, for I was confined to my chamber; but as I have been led, for my own gratification, to ascertain some of the particulars of what happened after his death, up to the time of his being deposited in the tomb of his ancestors, and as such particulars will give a completeness to my subject, it would otherwise want, the reader will, I trust, allow me to present him with a short description of them, from other sources than personal observation.

As soon as it was known, that Lord Byron was dead, sorrow and grief were generally felt in Greece. They spread from his own apartments, and from amongst his domestics and friends, over the town of Missolonghi, through the whole of Greece, and over every part of civilized Europe. Wherever the English language is known, there the works and the genius of Byron are admired; and wherever our language is known, his death was lamented. I need not tell the people of England, how profound a sensation that news caused among them. Every little anecdote, every little incident concerning him, was eagerly narrated, and not one public writer of any eminence,—for even those who were his ene-
mies, bore testimony to his unrivalled powers by their attacks—not one journal but spoke of the death of Lord Byron, as they would of an earthquake, of a victory that had saved the nation, or of any other very remarkable event, as the single all-engrossing topic of the day. The chord of affliction, which was struck at Missolonghi, vibrated its painful and melancholy notes through the whole of Europe.

But although the death of Lord Byron was everywhere felt as a severe loss, although the friends of true liberty mourned him, as one of the bravest and purest of their champions, and the lovers of heart-stirring poetry regretted him as the first of writers; yet no where was he more deeply lamented, than in Greece. He was both the poet and the defender of that once brilliant but now humbled country. No persons, perhaps, after his domestics and personal friends, felt his loss more acutely than the poor citizens of Missolonghi. His residence among them gave them food, and ensured them protection. But for him, they would have been first plundered by the unpaid Suliotes, and then left a prey to the Turks. Not only were the Primates, and Prince Mavrocordato affected on the occasion, but the poorest citizen felt that he had lost a friend. The prince wept bitterly, and deplored his own situation as made most unfortunate by the death of Lord
Byron. He spoke of him us the great friend of Greece; and of his conduct as widely different from that of other foreigners. “Nobody knows,” he said, “except perhaps myself the loss Greece has suffered. Her safety even depended on his continuing in existence. His presence here has checked intrigues which will now have uncontrolled sway. By his aid, alone, have I been able to preserve Missolonghi; and now I know, that every assistance I derived from him will be taken away. Already a conspiracy has been formed to break up the establishment here; and now there is every probability it will be successful. The foreigners here will support the enemies of the government, and Missolonghi will be made bare, to aggrandize some of the captains.”

The proclamation which he issued on this occasion might have been dictated by maxims of state policy, though I believe no individual in Greece, as far as political influence was concerned, had more reason to regret Lord Byron than he had; but I am sure its sentiments echoed those of the greater part of the citizens. It was on the day after Lord Byron’s death, amidst the festivities of Easter, that Mavrocordato made the event publicly known, in the following terms:

Provisional Government of Western Greece.

The present day of festivity and rejoicing has become one of sorrow and of mourning. The Lord Noel Byron departed this
life at six o’clock in the afternoon, after an illness of ten days; his death being caused by an inflammatory fever. Such was the effect of his Lordship’s illness on the public mind, that all classes had forgotten their usual recreations of Easter, even before the afflicting event was apprehended.

The loss of this illustrious individual is undoubtedly to be deplored by all Greece; but it must be more especially a subject of lamentation at Missolonghi, where his generosity has been so conspicuously displayed, and of which he had even become a citizen, with the further determination of participating in all the dangers of the war.

Every body is acquainted with the beneficent acts of his Lordship, and none can cease to hail his name as that of a real benefactor. Until, therefore, the final determination of the national government be known, and by virtue of the powers with which it has been pleased to invest me, I hereby decree,

1st. To-morrow morning, at day-light, thirty-seven minute guns shall be fired from the Grand Battery, being the number which corresponds with the age of the illustrious deceased.

2d. All the public offices, even the tribunals, are to remain closed for three successive days.

3d. All the shops, except those in which provisions or medicines are sold, shall also be shut; and it is strictly enjoined that every species of public amusement, and other demonstrations of festivity at Easter, shall be suspended.

4th. A general mourning will be observed for twenty-one days.

5th. Prayers and a funeral service are to be offered up in all the churches.

(Signed) A. Mavrocordato.
George Praidis, Secretary.

Given at Missolonghi,
this 19th day of April, 1824.


At other cities and places of Greece, at Salona, where the congress had just assembled; at Athens, the grief was equally sincere. Lord Byron was mourned as the best benefactor to Greece. Orations were pronounced by the priests, and the same honours were paid to his memory, as to the memory of one of their own most revered chiefs.

On the day after Lord Byron’s death, Count Gamba, Prince Mavrocordato, or rather two gentlemen, nominated by him, and myself, proceeded to examine Lord Byron’s papers and property. We took an inventory of every thing, and sealed up all his effects. The papers, &c., were afterwards conveyed to his Lordship’s executors. Among them, we found those deservedly celebrated verses, which Lord Byron composed on his thirty-sixth birth-day. He had read them, I believe, to his friends before, but no copy had ever been taken of them till then: I subjoin them below*. Some stanzas of the, I believe, XVIIth

* “January 22d, 1824, Missolonghi.

“’Tis time this heart should be unmoved,
Since others it hath ceased to move;
Yet though I cannot be beloved,
Still let me love!
“My days are in the yellow leaf;
The flowers and fruits of love are gone;
The worm, the canker, and the grief,
Are mine alone!

Canto of
Don Juan were also found; but there was no will, nor any directions for the disposal of his property in Greece.

“The fire that on my bosom preys,
Is lone as some volcanic isle;
No torch is kindled at its blaze—
A funeral pile!
“The hope, the fear, the jealous care,
The exalted portion of the pain
And power of love, I cannot share,
But wear the chain.
“But ’tis not thus, and ’tis not here
Such thoughts should shake my soul; nor now
Where glory decks the hero’s bier,
Or binds his brow.
“The sword, the banner, and the field,
Glory and Greece around me see!
The Spartan, borne upon his shield,
Was not more free.
“Awake! (not Greece,—she is awake!)
Awake, my spirit! Think through whom
Thy life-blood tracks its parent lake,
And then strike home!
“Tread these reviving passions down,
Unworthy manhood! Unto thee,
Indifferent should the smile or frown
Of beauty be.


His Lordship had already placed funds at my command, for the payment of the brigade, the repairs of the fortifications, and the other works carrying on under my directions, up to May 1st, and after paying up the brigade and workmen to that period, so that no stop might be put to the service, and after arranging Lord Byron’s papers, I made my own preparations for going to Zante. Prince Mavrocordato intrusted me with letters to convey to that place, and I went there in the vessel, which carried the news of Lord Byron’s death. The information caused almost as much gloom at the Ionian islands, as at Missolonghi: Lord Byron had many friends there, and the greater part of the people, though neither zealous nor charitable, were well-wishers to the cause of Greece. Lord Sidney Osborne, a friend and relation of Lord Byron’s, sent off a messenger to England with the news, and it was publicly known in London on May 16th. For my part, I was so unwell on my arrival at Zante, that I was obliged

“If thou regret’st thy youth, why live?
The land of honourable death
Is here:—up to the field, and give
Away thy breath!
“Seek out, less often sought than found,
A soldier’s grave—for thee the best;
Then look around, and choose thy ground,
And take thy rest.”

to have a physician, and to take up my abode in the Quarantine-house. Two days after my arrival,
Mr. Blaquiere arrived in the Florida, bringing with him the first instalment of the loan.

There were some doubts, what to do with Lord Byron’s body. Colonel Stanhope, indeed, had a plan even for the disposal of that, and recommended, immediately he heard of his death, that it should be deposited at Athens. Had any attempts been made to carry such a proposal into execution, I was prepared to oppose it with an unanswerable argument. In conversation with me, Lord Byron had frequently said, “Well, old boy, should you kick the bucket in Greece, have you any wish that your body should be sent to England?” “No, my Lord, no particular wish.” “Well, I have then; and mind this shall be an agreement betwixt us—If I should die in Greece, and you survive me, do you see that my body is sent to England; and if I survive you, I will take care that every request you make shall be complied with, and I’ll take care those little fellows of your’s at home shall not want.” The wish conveyed in these words I was determined to see executed; and mentioned to Count Gamba, both at Missolonghi and Zante, that if any thought was entertained of carrying Colonel Stanhope’s plan into execution, I would immediately write to England; for I
considered such a wish, so expressed, far more sacred, and far more binding on every person connected with Lord Byron, than any scheme or whim as to the disposal of his body, which might be formed by Colonel Stanhope. More rational counsels, however, prevailed, and it was settled that the corpse should be sent to England. The medical men at Missolonghi opened the body, and embalmed it. The heart, brain, and intestines, were enclosed in different vessels, and one of them was left in Greece; the body was placed in a chest lined with tin, as it was not possible, at Missolonghi, to procure lead sufficient for a coffin, and was sent to England.

“At sunrise, on April 20th,” says Count Gamba, “on the morning after his death, seven-and-thirty minute guns were fired from the principal battery of the fortress; and one of the batteries of the corps under his orders also fired one gun every half hour, for the succeeding four-and-twenty hours. We were soon apprized that the Turks at Patras, hearing our cannon, and learning the cause, testified their satisfaction, and insulted over our sorrows by discharges of musketry: this tribute alone was wanting to the memory of the benefactor of Greece;—but the barbarians may have occasion to lament the loss of the friend of humanity, and the protector of the oppressed.


“April 21.—For the remainder of this day and the next, a silence, like that of the grave, prevailed over the whole city. We intended to have performed the funeral ceremony on the twenty-first, but the continued rain prevented us. The next day (22d), however, we acquitted ourselves of that sad duty, as far as our humble means would permit. In the midst of his own brigade, of the troops of the government, and of the whole population, on the shoulders of the officers of his corps, relieved occasionally by other Greeks, the most precious portion of his honoured remains were carried to the church, where lie the bodies of Marco Bozzari and of General Normann. There we laid them down: the coffin was a rude, ill-constructed chest of wood; a black mantle served for a pall; and over it we placed a helmet and a sword, and a crown of laurel. But no funeral pomp could have left the impression, nor spoken the feelings, of this simple ceremony. The wretchedness and desolation of the place itself; the wild and half civilized warriors around us; their deep-felt, unaffected grief; the fond recollections; the disappointed hopes; the anxieties and sad presentiments which might be read on every countenance—all contributed to form a scene more moving, more truly affecting, than perhaps was ever before witnessed round the grave of a great man.


“When the funeral service was over, we left the bier in the middle of the church, where it remained until the evening of the next day, and was guarded by a detachment of his own brigade. The church was crowded without cessation by those who came to honour and to regret the benefactor of Greece. In the evening of the 23d, the bier was privately carried back by his officers to his own house. The coffin was not closed till the 29th of the month. Immediately after his death, his countenance had an air of calmness, mingled with a severity, that seemed gradually to soften; for when I took a last look of him, the expression, at least to my eyes, was truly sublime.”

On May 2d, the remains of Lord Byron were embarked, under a salute from the guns of the fortress. “How different,” exclaims Count Gamba, “from that, which had welcomed the arrival of Byron, only four months ago.” After a passage of three days, the vessel reached Zante; and the precious deposit was placed in the quarantine house. Here some additional precautions were taken, to ensure its safe arrival in England, by providing another case for the body. On May the 10th, Colonel Stanhope arrived at Zante, from the Morea; and much to my surprise, as well as indignation, rated me soundly for my strict obedience to Lord Byron’s orders. He asked me, among
other things, who gave me authority to call
Mavrocordato Prince? He was the only man I saw in Greece, who both by his actions and his words, shewed, that he had no respect for the talents of Byron while living, and no regret for his death. But I cannot do justice to him, in a paragraph, and must therefore hereafter resume the subject.

Colonel Stanhope was on his way back to England, and he therefore took charge of Lord Byron’s remains, and embarked with them on board the Florida. On the 25th of May she sailed from Zante, and arrived in the Downs on June 29th. She afterwards went to Stangate Creek, to perform quarantine, where she arrived on Thursday, July 1st.

John Cam Hobhouse, Esq., and John Hanson, Esq., Lord Byron’s executors, after having proved his will, claimed the body from the Florida; and under their directions, it was removed to the house of Sir Edward Knatchbull, No. 20, Great George Street, Westminster. Preparations were then made for the funeral. On Friday and Saturday, July 9th and 10th, the body lay in state, and was visited by a great number of noblemen and gentlemen. The crowd would probably have been too great, had every person been admitted, and therefore those only who could procure tickets issued for the purpose, were allowed to
pay the last tribute of their admiration to this illustrious man. By his friends, and those who knew him well, Lord Byron is described as not much altered in his appearance by death. He was thinner, more care-worn than formerly, but the lineaments of his face were unchanged, there was no mark of suffering in his countenance, and he appeared as if he were in a deep sleep. Some difference of opinion existed, as to where he was to be buried; it having been suggested, that he should be placed either in Westminster Abbey, or in Saint Paul’s Cathedral; but the good taste of his sister,
Mrs. Leigh prevailed, and it was settled that he should be laid, agreeably to a wish expressed in his writings, in the family vault at Newstead, and near his mother.

On Monday, July 12th at eleven o’clock in the morning, the funeral procession, attended by a great number of noblemen’s and gentlemen’s carriages, and by crowds of people, who evinced a deep sympathy, left the house at Westminster, and traversed various streets of the metropolis, to reach the north road. At Pancras Gate, the carriages returned; the procession was at an end, and the hoarse proceeded by slow stages to Nottingham.

One little incident is narrated in the public journals of the day, which seems worthy of receiving that trifling additional circulation I may
hope this book will give to it. As the procession proceeded through the streets of London, a fine looking honest tar was observed to walk near the hearse uncovered throughout the morning; and on being asked by a stranger whether he formed part of the funeral cortege, he replied that he came there to pay his respects to the deceased, with whom he had served in the Levant, when he made the tour of the Grecian islands. This poor fellow was kindly offered a place by some of the servants who were behind the carriage, but he said he was strong, and had rather walk near the hearse.

It was not till Friday, July 16th, that the interment took place. Lord Byron was buried in the family vault at the village church of Hucknel, eight miles beyond Nottingham, and within two miles of Newstead Abbey, once the property of the Byron family. He was accompanied to the grave by crowds of persons eager to shew this last testimony of respect to his memory. In one of his earlier poems he had expressed a wish that his dust might mingle with his mother’s, and in compliance with this wish, his coffin was placed in the vault next to her’s. It was twenty minutes past four o’clock on Friday, July 16th, 1824, when the ceremony was concluded, when the tomb closed for ever on Byron, and when his friends were relieved from every care concerning
him, save that of doing justice to his memory, and of cherishing his fame.

It would have been easy for me to have swelled out my book with many details on this last and closing scene of Lord Byron’s connexion with the world; and these details are not destitute of interest; but they belong not to my subject, nor am I capable of doing either them or him justice. At the same time I thought it was necessary to give a very brief outline of the leading events up to the time of his being deposited in his last resting-place; and having now done that, I shall return to what fell under my own observations, and to record some of Lord Byron’s opinions.

The following inscription was placed on the coffin:—

George Gordon Noel Byron,
“Of Rochdale.
JAN. 22, 1788,
“APRIL 19TH, 1824.”

An urn accompanied the coffin, and on it was inscribed,

“Within this urn are deposited the heart, brain, &c.,
“of the deceased Lord Byron.”