« AnteriorContinuar »
Lord Byron continued to live in Italy much ia lhe same manner us he had done, mixing very little with English people, and, therefore, the subject of a thousand very absurd stories, not onp of which was evem in its most prominent features at all true. We give the following »xample (and we do so particularly, because this was one at which lard Byron was excessively annoyed) of this style of story-telltn»r, cautioning our readers that' every third word of it is a lie, more religiously paid than the Turk's tribute.' It was published in a little book called • The Magic Lantern ,' and said to be from the pen of a lady, whose charms, personal and mental, have raised her to the rank of a countess:
'Signor , an English singer, who had been making the tow
of Italy to improve his musical tactics, was at Reggio, in Calabria, and anxious to proceed to Vienna by the shortest route, where he was engaged to sing before the emperor. He embarked, without passports, in aa open boat bound to Ancona, a capital town Or the Adriatic Gulf; but was seized near Cape Otranto by a Venetiau galley, and thrown into prison, where he managed to have a letter delivered into Lord Byron's hands, who very soon had him released. He sang at the nobility's concerts, and became a general favorite.
'He was also a navigable gentleman, very partial to swimming, aml gave a singular proof of his expertuess in that exercise. At a moonlight meeting on the shore, he sang to amuse many of the chief nohility without receiving any recompense, and was wearied out with encores, when the Duke de Montcassio insisted upon his repeating a song. He remonstrated in vain, and they pressed upon him till he stood on the last of the Virgin's steps leading to the water. They thought he was no* safe; but, to their utter astonishment, he made a low bow, and, taking to the water like a spaniel, swam across to the square, amidst rliiMnk is of applause. Except upon the stage, the sigoor was never after troubled with an encore.
'He lodged at a hotel adjoining that of Lord Byron's, who honored him with particular notice.
'Sir George W had for some time vainly labored for an introduction to his lordship, He was a * * *, and most horribly vulgar in his language and deportment: moreover, Ms wife was a blue-stocking, and bad penned a novel, in which Lord Byron was introduced as a
repentant husband. For these reasons the doors of his lordship were
hermetically sealed against their ingress. Captain F n, a Scotch
officer, a friend of my lord's, and a wight of *• infinite mirth and excellent fancy," bent upon mischief, promised Sir George an introduction. Signor — was a partner in the scheme; he was dressed up in a fac-simile of his lordship's clothes, and his supposed lordship received the baronet at his hotel. Added to his natural stupidity, Sir George was purblind, and easily deceived. The company consisted of several bonvivants; the baronet sat on the right of the signor, fully convinced he was elbowing the immortal bard. The signor gave some
of Lord B 's songs in a strain of burlesque that created infinite
mirth. Sir George listened with gravity, and marked time with his head. At the close of the evening a bill was presented of "heavy weight," the mock lord having left the chair and the room. Sir
George stared; Captain F n remarked that they were in a hotel,
and every body was glad to pay for seeing my Lord Byron. The baronet discharged the bill, and went home highly pleased with his new acquaintance. Next day, when promenading, Sir George met his lordship in a similar dress to that worn by the signor; and, after rubbing his spectacles, saluted him with a " How do ye do, my Lord ? how does the wine sit on your stomach?" His lordship did not exactly stomach this mode of salutation, and peevishly exclaimed, "Sir, I don't know you." "Not know me!" said the wiseacre, "for whom you sang so many rich songs last night'." "The man is mad," muttered his lordship, and pushed rudely past him.
• The trick soon reached the ears of his lordship, who was ill pleased at his name being made so free with; and the baronet, unable to stand the quizzing, quitted Venice in disgust. His lordship, fertile at invention, laid a plan to be revenged upon the forward ballad-singer, who had the vanity to suppose he had a person " worthy of any lady's eye." The Countess of Guiccioli undertook to make him believe she was smitten with the charms cf his person, and in a short time succeeded. The signor professed himself her admirer, and an assignation was fixed upon to take place in her apartment, where there was only one door, and no hiding-place of any description. His lordship, as concerted, thundered at the door shortly after the signor had entered; and the lady, under pretence of saving him, thrust him into the chimney, and fastened the board with a spring lock.
'His lordship had ordered a cold collation and a concert of music, as numerous friends came with him. For the space of three hours Iho
f entertainment was kept up merrily, and the signer suffered penance in the chimney. Imagine to yourself a July day in Italy, and then think what the signer must have endured. One of the company expressed a wish to change instrumental for vocal music, when Lord Byron observed he had a hird in the chimney which could imitate the notes of
Signor to admiration. Going near the chimney, he, in a
whisper, demanded a song, on pain of further confinement. The signer, humbled in spirit, began and finished with some humour the air—
"Pray set the mournful captive free."
'His lordship then, producing sundry benefit cards, made the company (most of whom were those that enjoyed the joke at his expense the preceding evening) purchase at a high price, remarking that every
one was glad to pay for hearing Signor sing. The son of
Apollo was then released, and a free pardon granted, on his promising never again to soar beyond his professional sphere.
'The Countess of Guiccioli has occasioned some noise both in Italy and Englaud. All the romantic tales of his lordship taking her out of a convent are fictions; she is no subject for a nnnnery. Her father is the head of an ancient Roman family, much reduced in it s fortunes: he let out his palace for their support, and Lord Byron by chance occupied it when his daughter was given in marriage to the Count
Guiccioli, an officer poor in every thing but titles.'^ Lord B made
the bride a liberal present of jewels, and in a short time he became the locum tenens of the bridegroom. An amicable arrangement was made— the count set off to join the army at Naples, newly caparisoned—and the countess remained under the roof of the uoble lord, where the father acts as regulator of the household. She is a lovely woman, not more than twenty-two years of age, of a gay volatile disposition—rides like an Amazon—and fishes, hunts, and shoots, with his lordship. Nature appears to have formed them for each other. She is beloved by all the domestics, and is friendly to every one that wants her aid. She speaks English with purity, and possesses many accomplishments.
( Her spirit is of the most intrepid description. Two months ago we went on a shooting party to the island of Santa Maura, the ancient Lencadia, where Sappho took the lover's leap, and buried in oblivion all memory of Pinion's inconstancy. My lord was taken with one of his odd vagaries, and, without saying a word to any one, sailed in a Greek polacre to Ithaca. Chance directed a boat to St. Maura, the crew of which had seen his lordship wandering on the shores of the IHyssi an Isle. The Countess resolved to go after him; and, dauntIcssly stepping into a small boat, accompanied by a boy, she spread her lillle sail to the breeze, and steered away, refusing to let any of Ob partake of the dangerous enterprise. For my part, I was not so much of a hero as to foster any amhition to become a Palinurus to the crazy bark of love. After being tossed about for three days and two nights she landed safe at Ithaca, and met the fugitive bard, astonished at her magnanimity. In ancient days this action would have formed the theme of an epic poem, and it is possible his lordship may yet render the tale as immortal as that of Sappho and Phaon.
• The barren island of Ithaca had charms for the gloomy mind of his lordship; and I have reason for supposing that, during the sojourn of our adventurers upon it, the drama of " Cain" was first conceived, and partly written. The story of Ulysses ploughing the sea sand, when he affected madness to remain from the siege of Troy, may not have been a fiction, for a more barren and desolate place can scarce be imagined. The countess took views from it in many places: her pencil is as often in her hand as his lordship's pen is in his; but it was only chance that ever favored us with a sight of the productions of either.
'Qn his lordship's return to Santa Maura we all embarked on board of a small latteen-sailed vessel for Venice. The first night we encountered a violent storm, which compelled us to seek shelter in a small creek on the west side of Zante. His lordship proved a good seaman, and showed his "intrepidity in the darkened hour." But for his threats and promises, we should have perished on the rocks. The crew, consisting of Albanians, were the most wretched cowards I had ever seen. An officer on the staff of Sir Thomas Adams came to the cottage on the beach, where our party had taken refuge. He politely offered us any accommodation the small fortress near afforded: this his lordship declined, and invited him to dine with us in a tent on the shore. The day turned out fine, and was passed agreeably: the officer was a subaltern in the Greek infantry, and, when a sergeant, had known Lord Byron at Parga, and done him some trifling service. This his lordship reminded him of after dinner, and gave him a snuff-box, which he desired him to keep as a memorial of his gratitude. The poor fellow's heart was so full that he could not keep the secret; the box contained a note for fifty pounds.
'Returned from Ithaca to Venice, we frequently made excursions to the neighbouring towns and villages, where his lordship was well known; and not unfrequently we had warning given at breakfast to be ready for a journey in two hours. This was the usual mode of taking ui unprepared. No previous conversation ever led to a belief of wbat were bis lordship's intentions; all his actions appeared to spring from the impulse of the moment. It was not always pleasant, nevertheless, to be thus taken by surprise; and the time for preparation was never considered by his lordship.
'It took no more trouble to prepare him for a journey of several days than a knight of the first crusades to make ready for a campaign, who had but one suit, in which he slept. Whether he was in his com. mon daily or full court dress, the only change he makes is drawing on a pair of tanned brown and red leather boots, and flinging a spotted silk cloak over his shoulders. With a brace of pistols in his hilt, and a large English postilion's whip in his hand, he is armed cap-a-pie for all weathers. If he had half a dozen servants to take care of Ike luggage, he invariably would carry a small portmanteau Mtind him, which held a change of linen: before him was a pair of horse-pistol holsters, in which he kept his sketch-buok, papers, pens and ink, and three or four silk and cambric handkerchiefs, which he was in the habit of dipping in the rivers and springs, aud rubbing his forehead with. No man was more particular in the attendance of his servants, and no one ever had less occasion for their services. He kept them for the convenience of his friends atone, and in that particular certainly studied their comforts to the neglect of his own. We took the road to Verona, which was a' favorite city of his lordship's, from a romantic notion which he entertained that the Romeo and Juliet of Shakapean had absolutely existed within its walls; and he has been heard to declare that he could point out the ruins of Friar Lawrence's hermitage. In fact, like Gray and Mason with their Druids, Temples of Odin, and Fatal Sisters, his lordship brooded over darkened scenes, accordant with his imagination, till he "thought each strange tale devoutly true.'"
Some American gentlemen who met with Lord Byron published an account of it in one of their own newspapers; and in this, although the details are unquestionably true, it appears that Lord Byron indulged in quizzing them—a practice to which he was always, and rather too
much, addicted .
41 have been rambling about in Italy for fourteen months, and know every road in it better than any one in America, and every street or lane in Milan, Florence, Rome, Venice, &c. &c. better than the