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this attachment led, we can hardly perhaps,—taking into account the far worse wrong from which it rescued and preserved him,—consider it otherwise than an event fortunate, both for his reputation and happiness.
The fair object of this last, and (with one signal exception) only real love of his whole life, was a young Romagnese lady, the daughter of Count Gamba, of Ravenna, and married, but a short time before Lord Byron first met with her, to an old and wealthy widower, of the same city, Count Guiccioli. Her husband had in early life been the friend of Alfieri, and had distinguished himself by his zeal in promoting the establishment of a National Theatre, in which the talents of Alfieri and his own wealth were to be combined. Notwithstanding his age, and a character, as it appears, by no means reputable, his great opulence rendered him an object of ambition among the mothers of Ravenna, who, according to the too frequent maternal practice, were seen vying with each other in attracting so rich a purchaser for their daughters, and the young Teresa Gamba, then only eighteen, and just emancipated from a convent, was the selected victim.
The first time Lord Byron had ever seen this lady was in the autumn of 1818, when she made her appearance, soon after her marriage, at the house of the Countess Albrizzi, in all the gaiety of bridal array, and the first delight of exchanging a convent for the world. At this time, however, no acquaintance ensued between them ;—it was not till the spring of the present year that, at an evening party of Madame Benzoni's, they were introduced to each other. The love that sprung out of this meeting was instantaneous and mutual,— though with the usual disproportion of sacrifice between the parties; such an event being, to the man, but one of the many scenes of life, while, with woman, it generally constitutes the whole drama. The young Italian found herself suddenly inspired with a passion, of which, till that moment, her mind could not have formed the least idea;—she had thought of love but as an amusement, and now became its slave. If at the outset, too, less slow to be won than an .Englishwoman, no sooner did she begin , 'jic> understand the fall despotism of the passion yx&n her heart shrunk from it as something terrible, and she would have escaped, but that the chain was already
No words, however, can describe so simply and feelingly as her own, the
strong impression which their first meeting left upon her mind :—
"I became acquainted," says Madame Guiccioli, "with Lord Byron in ths April of 1819:—he was introduced to me at Venice, by the Countess Benzoni, at one of that lady's parlies. This introduction, which had so much influence over the lives of us both, took place contrary to our wishes, and had been permitted by us only from courtesy. For myself, more fatigued than usual that evening on account of the late hours they keep at Venice, I went with great repugnance to this party, and purely in obedience to Count Guiccioli. Lord Byron, too, who was averse to forming new acquaintances, — alleging that he had entirely renounced all attachments, and was unwilling any more to expose himself to their consequences,—on being requested by the Countess Benzoni to allow himself to be presented to me, refused, and, at last, only assented from a desire to oblige her.
"His noble and exquisitely beautiful countenance, the tone of his voice, his manners, the thousand enchantments that surrounded him, rendered him so different and so superior a being to any whom I had hitherto seen, that it was impossible he should not have left the most profound impression upon me. From that evening, during the whole of my subsequent stay at Venice, we met every day."
• • • • • • •
About the middle of April, Madame Guiccioli had been obliged to quit Venice with her husband. Having several houses on the road from Venice to Ravenna, it was his habit to stop at these mansions, one after the other, in his journeys between the two cities; and from all these places the enamoured young Countess now wrote to her lover, expressing, in the most passionate and pathetic terms, her despair at leaving him. So utterly, indeed, did this feeling overpower her, that three times, in the course of her first day's journey, she was seized with fainting-fits. In one of her letters, which I saw when at Venice, dated, if I recollect right, from "Ca Zen, Cavanella di Po,''she tells him that the solitude of this place, which she had before found irksome, was, now that one sole i^ea occupied her mind, become dear and welcome to her, and promises that, as soon as she arrives at Ravenna, "she will, according to his wish, avoid all general society, and devote herself to reading, music, domestic occupations, riding on horseback,—every thing, in short, that she knew he would most like.'' What a change for a young and simple girl, who, but a few weeks before, had thought only of society and the world, but who now saw no other happiness but in the hope of becoming worthy, by seclusion and self-instruction, of the illustrious object of her love!
On leaving this place, she was attacked with a dangerous illness on the road, and arrived half dead at Ravenna; nor was it found possible to revive or comfort her till an assurance was received from Lord Byron, expressed with all the fervour of real passion, that, in the course of the ensuing month, he would pay her a visit. Symptoms of consumption, brought on by her state of mind, had already shown themselves; and, in addition to the pain which this separation had caused her, she was also suffering much grief from the loss of her mother, who, at this time, died in giving birth to her twentieth child. Towards the latter end of May she wrote to acquaint Lord Byron that, having prepared all her relatives and friends to expect him, he might now, she thought, venture to make his appearance at Ravenna. Though, on the lady's account, hesitating as to the prudence of such a step, he, in obedience to her wishes, on the 2nd of June, set out from La Mira (at which place he had again taken a villa for the summer), and proceeded towards Romagna.
While he was lingering irresolute at Bologna, the Countess Guiccioli had been attacked with an intermittent fever, the violence of which combining with the absence of a confidential person to whom she had been in the habit of intrusting her letters, prevented her from communicating with him. At length, anxious to spare him the disappointment of finding her so ill on his arrival, she had begun a letter, requesting that he would remain at Bologna till the visit to which she looked forward should bring her there also; and was in the act of writing, when a friend came in to announce the arrival of an English lord in Ravenna. She could not doubt for an instant that it was her noble lover; and he had, in fact, notwithstanding his declaration to Mr. Hoppner that it was his intention to return to Venice immediately, wholly altered this resolution before the letter announcing it was despatched,— the following words being written on the outside cover I am just setting off for Ravenna, June 8, 1819.—I changed my mind this morning, and decided to go on."
The reader, hcwever, shall have Ma
dame Guiccioli'd own account of these events, which, fortunately for the interest of my narration, I am enabled to communicate:—
"On my departure from Venice, he had promised to come and see me at Ravenna. Dante's tomb, the classical pine wood, the relics of antiquity which are to be found in that place, afforded a sufficient pretext for me to invite 'him to come, and for him to accept my invitation. He came, in fact, in the month of June, arriving at Ravenna on the day of the festival of the Corpus Domini; while, 1 attacked by a consumptive complaint, which had its origin from the moment of my quitting Venice, appeared on the point of death. The arrival of a distinguished foreigner at Ravenna, a town so remote from the routes ordinarily followed by travellers, was an event which gave rise to a good deal of conversation. His motives for such a visit became the subject of discussion, and these he himself afterwards involuntarily divulged; for having made some inquiries with a view to paying me a visit, and being told that it was unlikely that he would ever see me again, as I was at the point of death, he replied, if such were the case, he hoped that he should die also; which circumstance, being repeated revealed the object of his journey. Count Guicoioli, having been acquainted with Lord Byron at Venice, went to visit him now, and in the hope that his presence might amuse, and be of some use to me in the state in which I then found myself, invited him to call upon me. He came the day following. It is impossible to describe the anxiety he showed,—the delicate attentions that he paid me. For a long time he had perpetually medical books in his hands; and not trusting my physicians, he obtained permission from Count Guiccioli to send for a very clever physician, a friend of his, in whom he placed great confidence. The attentions of the Professor Aglietti (for so this celebrated Italian was called), together with tranquillity, and the inexpressible happiness which I experienced in Lord Byron's society, had so good an eftect on my health, that only two months afterwards I was able to accompany my husband in a tour he was obliged to
make to visit his various estates.
In the separation that had now taken place (1820) between Count Guiccioli and his wife, it was one of the conditions that the lady should, in future, reside under the paternal roof:—in consequence of which, Madame Guiccioli, on the 16th of July, left Ravenna and re* tired to a villa belonging to Count Gnmba, about fifteen miles distant from thut city. Here Lord Byron occasionally visited her—about once or twice, perhaps, in the month—passing the rest of his time in perfect solitude. To a mind like his, whose world was within itself, such a mode of life could have been neither new nor unwelcome; but to the woman, young and admired, whose acquaintance with the world and its pleasures had but just begun, this change was, it must be confessed, most sudden and trying. Count Guiccioli was rich, and, as a young wife, she had gained absolute power over him. She was proud, and his station placed her among the highest in Ravenna. They had talked of travelling to Naples, Florence, Paris,—and every luxury, in short, that wealth could command was at her disposal.
All this she now voluntarily and determinedly sacrificed for Byron. Her splendid home abandoned—her relations all openly at war with her—her kind father but tolerating, from fondness, what he could not approve—she was now, upon a pittance of 2001. n year, living apart from the world, her sole occupation the task of educating herself for her illustrious lover, and her sole reward the few brief glimpses of him which their now restricted intercourse allowed. Of the man who could inspire and keep alive so devoted a feeling, it may he pronounced with confidence that he could not have been such as, in the freaks of his own wayward humour, he represented himself; while, on the lady's side, the whole history of her attachment goes to prove how completely an Italian woman, whether by nature or from her social position, is led to invert the usual course of such frailties among ourselves, and, weak in resisting the first impulses of passion, to reserve the whole strength of her character for a display of constancy and devotedmfss afterwards.
MEETING OF LORD BYRON AND
It was my good fortune, at this period, (1819) in the course of a short and hasty tour through the north of Italy, to pass five or six days with Lord Byron at Venice. I had written to him on my way thither to announce my coming, and to say how happy it would make me could I tempt him to accompany me as' far as Rome.
Having parted, at Milan, with Lord John Russell, whom I had accompanied from England, and whom I was to rejoin, after a short visit to Rome, at
Genoa, I made purchase o. a small and (as it soon proved) crazy travelling carriage, and proceeded alone on my way to Venice. My time being limited, I stopped no longer nt the intervening places than was sufficient to hurry over their respective wonders, and, leaving Padua at noon on the 8th of October, I found myself, about two o'clock, at the door of my friend's villa, at La Mira. he was but just up, and in his bath; but the servant having announced my arrival, he returned a message that, if I would wait till he was dressed, he would accompany me to Venice. The interval I employed in conversing with my old acquaintance, Fletcher, and in viewing, under his guidance, some of the apartments of the villa.
It was not long before Lord Byron himself made his appearance, and the delight I felt in meeting him once more, after a separation of so many years, was not a little heightened by observing that his pleasure was, to the full, as great, while it was rendered doubly touching by the evident rarity of such meetings to him of late, and the frank outbreak of cordiality and gaiety with which he gave way to his feelings. It would be impossible, indeed, to convey to those who have not, at some time or other, felt the charm of his manner, any idea of what it could be when under the influence of such pleasurable excitement as it was most flatteringly evident he experienced at this moment.
I was a good deal struck, however, by the alteration that had taken place in his personal appearance. He had grown fatter both in person and face, and the latter had most suffered by the change, having lost, by the enlargement of the features, some of that refined and spiritualized look that had, in other times, distinguished it. The addition of whiskers, too, which he had not long before been induced to adopt, from hearing that some one had said he had a "faccia di musico,'' as well as the length to which his hair grew down on his neck, and the rather foreign air of his coat and cap,—all combined to produce that dissimilarity to his former self I had observed in him. He was still, however, eminently handsome; and, in exchange for whatever his features might have lost of their high, romantic character, they had become more fitted for the expression of that arch, waggish wisdom, that Epicurean play of humour, which he had shown to be equally inherent in his various and prodigally gifted nature; while, by the somewhat increased roundness of the contours, the resemblance of his finely formed month and chin to those of the Belvedere Apollo had become still more striking.
His breakfast, which I found he rarely took before three or four o'clock in the afternoon, was speedily despatched,— his habit being to eat it standing, and the meal in general consisting of one or two raw eggs, a cup of tea without either milk or sugar, and a bit of dry biscuit. Before we took our departure, he presented me to the Countess Guiccioli, who was at this time living under the same roof with him at La Mira \ and who, with a style of beauty singular in an Italian, as being fair-complexioned and delicate, left an impression upon my mind, during this our first short interview, of intelligence and amiableness such as all that I have since known or heard of her has but served to confirm.
We now started together, Lord Byron and myself, in my little Milanese vehicle, for Fusina,—his portly gondolier Tita, in a rich livery and most redundant mustachios, having seated himself on the front of the carriage, to the no small trial of its strength, which had already once given way, even under my own weight, between Verona and Vicenza. On our arrival at Fusina, my noble friend, from his familiarity with all the details of the place, had it in his power to save me both trouble and expense in the different arrangements relative to the custom-house, remise, &c. and the good -natured assiduity with which he bustled about in despatching these matters gave me an opportunity of observing, in his use of the infirm limb, a much greater degree of activity than I had ever before, except in sparring, witnessed.
As we proceeded across the Lagoon in his gondola, the sun was just setting, and it was an evening such as Romance would have chosen for a first sight of Venice, rising "with her tiara of bright towers " above the wave ; while to complete, as might be imagined, the solemn mterest of the scene, I beheld it in company with him who had lately given a new life to its glories, and sung of that fair City of the Sea thus grandly:
"I stood in Venice on the Bridge of Sighs;
But whatever emotions the first sight of such a scene might, under other cir
cumstances, have inspired me with, the" mood of mind in which 1 now viewed it was altogether the very reverse of what might have been expected. The exuberant gaiety of my companion, and the recollections,—any thing but romantic, —into which our conversation wandered, put at once completely to flight all poetical and historical associations ; and our course was, I am almost ashamed to say, one of uninterrupted merriment and laughter till we found ourselves at the steps of my friend's palazzo on the Grand Canal. All that had ever happened, of gay or ridiculous, during our London life together,— his scrapes and my lecturings, — our joint adventures with the Bores and Blues, the two great enemies, as he always called them, of London happiness, — our joyous nights together at Watier's, Kinnaird's, &c. and "that d—d supper of Kancliffe's which ought to have been a dinner,"—all was passed rapidly in review between us, and with a flow of humour and hilarity, on his side, of which it would have been difficult, even for persons far graver than I can pretend to be, not to have caught the contagion.
LORD BYRON'S PARSIMONY.
It is, indeed, certain, that he had at this time (1819) taken up the whim (for it hardly deserves a more serious name) of minute and constant watchfulness over his expenditure; and, as most usually happens, it was with the increase of his means that this increased sense of the value of money came. The first symptom I saw of this new fancy of his was the exceeding joy which he manifested on my presenting to him a rouleau of twenty Napoleons, which Lord K**d, to whom he had, on some occasion, lent that sum, had entrusted me with, at Milan, to deliver into his hands. With the most joyous and diverting eagernesss, he tore open the paper, and, in counting over the sum, stopped frequently to congratulate himselt on the recovery of it.
Of his household frugalities I speak but on the authority of others; but it is not difficult to conceive that, with a restless spirit like his, which delighted always in having something to contend with, and which, but a short time before, "for want," as he said, "of something craggy to break upon," had tortured itself with the study of the Armenian language, he should, in default of all better excitement, find a sort of stir and amusement in the task of contesting, inch by inch, every encroachment of expense, and endeavouring to suppress what he himself calls
"Tliat climax of all earthly ills, The inflammation of our weekly bills."
In truth, his constant recurrence to the praise of avarice in Don Juan, and the humorous zest with which he delights to dwell on it, shows how new-fangled, as well as far from serious, was his adoption of this " good old-gentlemanly vice." In the same spirit he had, a short time before my arrival at Venice, established a hoarding-box, with a slit in the lid, into which he occasionally put sequins, and, at stated periods, opened it to contemplate his treasures. His own ascetic style of living enabled him, as far as himself was concerned, to gratify this taste for enonomy in no ordinary degree,—his daily bill of fare, when the Margarita was his companion, consisting, I have been assured, of but four beccafichi of which the Fornarina eat three leaving even him hungry.
(1819)—A Short time before dinner he left the room, and in a minute or two returned, carrying in his hand a white leather bag. "Look here," he said, holding it up,—" this would be worth something to Murray, though you, I dare say, would not give sixpence for it." "What is it?" I asked.—" My Life and Adventures," he answered. On hearing this, I raised my hands in a gesture of wonder. "It is not a thing," he continued, "that can be published during my lifetime, but you may have it if you like—there, do whatever you please with it.'' In taking the bag, and thanking him most warmly, I added, "This will make a nice legacy for my little Tom, who shall astonish the latter days of the nineteenth century with it." He then added, " You may show it to any of our friends you may think worthy of it:"—and this is nearly word for word, the whole of what passed between us on the subject.
To Mr. Moore.
"January 2nd, 1830. "My Dear Moore, "' To-day it ii my wedding-day, And all the folks would stare If wife should dine at Edmonton, And I should diue at Ware.' Or thus— "Here's a happy new year! but with reason I bet you'll permit me to say— Wish me many returns of the season. But as few as yon please of the day.
"My this present writing is to direct you that, if she chooses, she may see the MS. Memoir in your possession. I wish her to have fair play, in all cases,
even though it will not be published till
after my decease. For this purpose, it
were but just that Lady B. should know
what is their said of her and hers, that
she may have full power to remark on
or respond to any part or parts, as may
seem fitting to herself. This is fair
dealing, I presume, in all events.
"To change the subject, are you in
England? I send you an epitaph for
Another for Pitt—
"With death doom'd to grapple
"The gods seem to have made me poetical this day—
"In digging up your bones, Tom Paine,
"You come to him on earth again.
"Pray let not these versiculi go forth with my name, except among the initiated, because my friend H. has foamed into a reformer, and, I greatly fear, will subside into Newgate; since the Honourable House, according to Galignani's Reports of Parliamentary Debates, are menacing a prosecution to a pamphlet of his. I shall be very sorry to hear of any thing but good for him, particularly in these miserable squabbles; but these are the natural effects of taking a part in them.''
SIR HUMPHRY DAVY.
"Ravenna, May 8,1820. "sir Humphry Davy was here last fortnight, and I was in his company in the house of a very pretty Italian lady of rank, who, by way of displaying her learning in presence of the great chemist, then describing his fourteenth ascension of Mount Vesuvius, asked 'if there was not a similar volcano in Ire/and f My only notion of an Irish volcano consisted of the lake of Killarney, which I naturally conceived her to mean; but on second thoughts I divined that she alluded to Iceland and to Hecla—and so it proved, though she sustained her volcanic topography for some time with all the amiable pertinacity of ' the feminie.' She soon after turned to me, and asked me various questions about Sir Humphry's philosophy, and I explained as well as an oracle his. skill m gasen safety lamps, and ungluing the Pompeian MSS. 'But what do you call him?' said she. 'A great chemist,' quoth I. 'What can he