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LITERARY LIFE AND CORRESPONDENCE
COUNTESS OF BLESSINGTON.
LA CONTESSA GUICCIOLI, NOW MADAME LA MARQUISE DE BOISSY. THIS lady is the daughter of the Comte Gamba, descended from one of the first families of Ravenna.*
Teresa Gamba was born at Ravenna in 1802. She was educated at a convent, and was removed from one by her father, to be married, at the age of sixteen, to an old nobleman of considerable wealth and very extensive landed property on the borders of Ancona and Bologna-the Comte Guiccioli, a friend in early life of Alfieri. The comte was not only old enough to be the father of this young lady (who was his third wife), but was even some years older than her father.
Youth, beauty, and intellect, united with age, ugliness, and mindlessness, proved an incongruous combination of jarring elements antipathies, aversion, discords, and separation were the result of this ill-starred, ill-assorted union.
The Countess Guiccioli descends from a long line of illustrious ancestors. Her grandmother, a celebrated beauty in her time, was daughter to the Marquis di Bagno, of Mantua; and her mother, who died in childbirth only a year or so after the young countess's marriage, was a very handsome lady, and daughter of the Contessa Macherelli, one of whose sisters married the Count Cobentzel, of Vienna, and by another sister the family became allied to the noble houses of Erdeddi, Nadasti, and Esterhazy.-Diary in Italy, vol. ii., p. 53.
Byron first beheld Madame Guiccioli at Venice, at the house of the Countess Albrizzi, in the autumn of 1818, two days after her marriage with the old noble of large possessions and small worth, then bordering on his grand climacteric. It was not, however, till the spring of 1819 that he became acquainted with the fair lady, at an evening party in the same city, and from that time daily meetings-" the despotism of a strong passion" on the part of one," a profound impression" on the heart of the other, an attachment that endured during the life of Byron, and that subsists to this hour in the guise of a sort of culte for the memory of a man of transcendent talents in the breast of the surviving lady-were the result.
About this period, in June, 1819, Lord Byron, after a residence of upward of two years at Venice, began to grow weary of the gloomy aspect of a great city falling into decay and dilapidation: "To see a city die daily, as Venice does, is a sad contemplation," said his lordship. He accordingly abandoned Venice, and betook himself to Ravenna, where he renewed his acquaintance with the Countess Guiccioli.
The countess had been obliged to quit Venice for Ravenna, with her husband, about the middle of the preceding April. Soon after her arrival, her mother died in giving birth to her fourteenth child.
In July, 1819, Byron wrote from Ravenna to Mr. Hoppner, saying, "I greatly fear the Guiccioli is going into a consumption, to which her constitution leads. Thus it is with every thing and every body for whom I feel any thing like a real attachment-War, Death, or Discord doth lay siege to them.' I never even could keep alive a dog that I liked, or that liked me."
Four years previously, Byron had met with some loss, which he made the subject of lines of much beauty and pathos, that are not to be found in his collected published works. These lines throw some light on the apparent indifference which Byron was in the habit of exhibiting on occasions of separation by death, or other causes, from those he loved, and especially on the occasion of his parting with Madame Guiccioli at the period of his embarkation for Greece.