Thus surrounded by vexations, and thus deeply feeling them, it is not too much to say, that any other spirit but his own would have sunk under the struggle, and lost, perhaps irrecoverably, that level of self-esteem which alone affords a stand against the shocks of fortune. But in him,—furnished as was his mind with reserves of strength, waiting to be called out,—the very intensity of the pressure brought relief by the proportionate re-action which it produced. Had his transgressions and frailties been visited with no more than their due portion of punishment, there can be little doubt that a very different result would have ensued. Not only would such an excitement have been insufficient to waken up the new energies still dormant in him, but that consciousness of his own errors, which was for ever livelily present in his mind, would, under such circumstances, have been left, undisturbed by any unjust provocation, to work its usual softening and, perhaps, humbling influences on his spirit. But,—luckily, as it proved, for the further triumphs of his genius,—no such moderation was exercised. The storm of invective raised around him, so utterly out of proportion with his offences, and the base calumnies that were every where heaped upon his name, left to his wounded pride no other resource than in the same summoning up of strength, the same instinct of resistance to injustice, which had first forced out the energies of his youthful genius, and was now destined to give a still bolder and loftier range to its powers.
It was, indeed, not without truth, said of him by Goethe, that he was inspired by the Genius of Pain; for, from the first to the last of his agitated career, every fresh recruitment of his faculties was imbibed from that bitter source. His chief incentive, when a boy, to distinction was, as we have seen, that mark of deformity on his person, by an acute sense of which he was first stung into the ambition of being great. As, with an evident reference to his own fate, he himself describes the feeling,—
"Deformity is daring. It is its essence to o'ertake mankind By heart and soul, and make itself the equal,— Ay, the superior of the rest. There is A spur in its halt movements, to become All that the others cannot, in such things As still are free to both, to compensate For stepdame Nature's avarice at first."
Then came the disappointment of his youthful passion,—the lassitude and remorse of premature excess,—the lone friendlessness of his entrance into life, and the ruthless assault upon his first literary efforts,—all links in that chain of trials, errors, and sufferings, by which his great mind was gradually and painfully drawn out;—all bearing their respective shares in accomplishing that destiny which seems to have decreed that the triumphal march of his genius should be over the waste and ruins of his heart. He appeared, indeed, himself to have had an instinctive consciousness that it was out of such ordeals his strength and glory were to arise, as his whole life was passed in courting agitation and difficulties; and whenever the scenes around him were too tame to furnish such excitement, he flew to fancy or memory for "thorns" whereon to "lean his breast."
But the greatest of his trials, as well as triumphs, was yet to come. The last stage of this painful, though glorious, course, in which fresh power was, at every step, wrung from out his soul, was that at which we are now arrived, his marriage and its results,—without which, dear as was the price paid by him in peace and character, his career would have been incomplete, and the world still left in ignorance of the full compass of his genius. It is, indeed, worthy of remark, that it was not till his domestic circumstances began to darken around him that his fancy, which had long been idle, again rose upon the wing,—both The Siege of Corinth and Parisina having been produced but a short time before the separation. How conscious he was, too, that the turmoil which followed was the true element of his restless spirit, may be collected from several passages of his letters at that period, in one of which he even mentions that his health had become all the better for the conflict:—"It is odd," he says, "but agitation or contest of any kind gives a rebound to my spirits, and sets me up for the time."
This buoyancy it was,—this irrepressible spring of mind,—that now enabled him to bear up not only against the assaults of others, but, what was still more difficult, against his own thoughts and feelings. The muster of all his mental resources to which, in self-defence, he had been driven, but opened to him the yet undreamed extent and capacity of his powers, and inspired him with a proud confidence that he should yet shine down these calumnious mists, convert censure to wonder, and compel even those who could not approve to admire.
The route which he now took, through Flanders and by the Rhine, is best traced in his own matchless verses, which leave a portion of their glory on all that they touch, and lend to scenes, already clothed with immortality by nature and by history, the no less durable associations of undying song. On his leaving Brussels, an incident occurred which would be hardly worth relating, were it not for the proof it affords of the malicious assiduity with which every thing to his disadvantage was now caught up and circulated in England. Mr. Pryce Gordon, a gentleman, who appears to have seen a good deal of him during his short stay at Brussels, thus relates the anecdote:—
"Lord Byron travelled in a huge coach, copied from the celebrated one of Napoleon, taken at Genappe, with additions. Besides a lit de repos, it contained a library, a plate-chest, and every apparatus for dining in it. It was not, however, found sufficiently capacious for his baggage and suite; and he purchased a caleche at Brussels for his servants. It broke down going to Waterloo, and I advised him to return it, as it seemed to be a crazy machine; but as he had made a deposit of forty Napoleons (certainly double its value), the honest Fleming would not consent to restore the cash, or take back his packing case, except under a forfeiture of thirty Napoleons. As his Lordship was to set out the following day, he begged me to make the best arrangement I could in the affair. He had no sooner taken his departure, than the worthy sellier inserted a paragraph in 'The Brussels Oracle,' stating 'that the noble milor Anglais had absconded with his caleche, value 1800 francs!'"
In the Courier of May 13., the Brussels account of this transaction is thus copied:—
"The following is an extract from the Dutch Mail, dated Brussels, May 8th,:—In the Journal de Belgique, of this date, is a petition from a coachmaker at Brussels to the president of the Tribunal de Premier Instance, stating that he has sold to Lord Byron a carriage, &c. for 1882 francs, of which he has received 847 francs, but that his Lordship, who is going away the same day, refuses to pay him the remaining 1035 francs; he begs permission to seize the carriage, &c. This being granted, he put it into the hands of a proper officer, who went to signify the above to Lord Byron, and was informed by the landlord of the hotel that his Lordship was gone without having given him any thing to pay the debt, on which the officer seized a chaise belonging to his Lordship as security for the amount."
It was not till the beginning of the following month that a contradiction of this falsehood, stating the real circumstances of the case, as above related, was communicated to the Morning Chronicle, in a letter from Brussels, signed "Pryce L. Gordon."
Another anecdote, of far more interest, has been furnished from the same respectable source. It appears that the two first stanzas of the verses relating to Waterloo, "Stop, for thy tread is on an empire's dust," were written at Brussels, after a visit to that memorable field, and transcribed by Lord Byron, next morning, in an album belonging to the lady of the gentleman who communicates the anecdote.
"A few weeks after he had written them (says the relater), the well-known artist, R.R. Reinagle, a friend of mine, arrived in Brussels, when I invited him to dine with me and showed him the lines, requesting him to embellish them with an appropriate vignette to the following passage:—
"'Here his last flight the haughty eagle flew, Then tore, with bloody beak, the fatal plain; Pierced with the shafts of banded nations through, Ambition's life, and labours, all were vain— He wears the shatter'd links of the world's broken chain.'
Mr. Reinagle sketched with a pencil a spirited chained eagle, grasping the earth with his talons.
"I had occasion to write to his Lordship, and mentioned having got this clever artist to draw a vignette to his beautiful lines, and the liberty he had taken by altering the action of the eagle. In reply to this, he wrote to me,—'Reinagle is a better poet and a better ornithologist than I am; eagles, and all birds of prey, attack with their talons, and not with their beaks, and I have altered the line thus:—
"'Then tore, with bloody talon, the rent plain.'
This is, I think, a better line, besides its poetical justice.' I need hardly add, when I communicated this flattering compliment to the painter, that he was highly gratified."
From Brussels the noble traveller pursued his course along the Rhine,—a line of road which he has strewed over with all the riches of poesy; and, arriving at Geneva, took up his abode at the well-known hotel, Secheron. After a stay of a few weeks at this place, he removed to a villa, in the neighbourhood, called Diodati, very beautifully situated on the high banks of the Lake, where he established his residence for the remainder of the summer.
I shall now give the few letters in my possession written by him at this time, and then subjoin to them such anecdotes as I have been able to collect relative to the same period.
[Footnote 103: Dated April 16.]
[Footnote 104: It will be seen, from a subsequent letter, that the first stanza of that most cordial of Farewells, "My boat is on the shore," was also written at this time.]
[Footnote 105: In one of his letters to Mr. Hunt, he declares it to be his own opinion that "an addiction to poetry is very generally the result of 'an uneasy mind in an uneasy body;' disease or deformity," he adds, "have been the attendants of many of our best. Collins mad—Chatterton, I think, mad—Cowper mad—Pope crooked—Milton blind," &c. &c.]
[Footnote 106: The Deformed Transformed.]
[Footnote 107: Childe Harold, Canto iii. stanza 17.]
* * * * *
LETTER 242. TO MR. MURRAY.
"Ouchy, near Lausanne, June 27. 1816.
"I am thus far (kept by stress of weather) on my way back to Diodati (near Geneva) from a voyage in my boat round the Lake; and I enclose you a sprig of Gibbons acacia and some rose-leaves from his garden, which, with part of his house, I have just seen. You will find honourable mention, in his Life, made of this 'acacia,' when he walked out on the night of concluding his history. The garden and summer-house, where he composed, are neglected, and the last utterly decayed; but they still show it as his 'cabinet,' and seem perfectly aware of his memory.
"My route, through Flanders, and by the Rhine, to Switzerland, was all I expected, and more.
"I have traversed all Rousseau's ground with the Heloise before me, and am struck to a degree that I cannot express with the force and accuracy of his descriptions and the beauty of their reality. Meillerie, Clarens, and Vevay, and the Chateau de Chillon, are places of which I shall say little, because all I could say must fall short of the impressions they stamp.
"Three days ago, we were most nearly wrecked in a squall off Meillerie, and driven to shore. I ran no risk, being so near the rocks, and a good swimmer; but our party were wet, and incommoded a good deal. The wind was strong enough to blow down some trees, as we found at landing: however, all is righted and right, and we are thus far on our return.
"Dr. Polidori is not here, but at Diodati, left behind in hospital with a sprained ankle, which he acquired in tumbling from a wall—he can't jump.
"I shall be glad to hear you are well, and have received for me certain helms and swords, sent from Waterloo, which I rode over with pain and pleasure.
"I have finished a third canto of Childe Harold (consisting of one hundred and seventeen stanzas), longer than either of the two former, and in some parts, it may be, better; but of course on that I cannot determine. I shall send it by the first safe-looking opportunity. Ever," &c.
* * * * *
LETTER 243. TO MR. MURRAY.
"Diodati, near Geneva, July 22. 1816.
"I wrote to you a few weeks ago, and Dr. Polidori received your letter; but the packet has not made its appearance, nor the epistle, of which you gave notice therein. I enclose you an advertisement, which was copied by Dr. Polidori, and which appears to be about the most impudent imposition that ever issued from Grub Street. I need hardly say that I know nothing of all this trash, nor whence it may spring,—'Odes to St. Helena,'—'Farewells to England,' &c. &c.—and if it can be disavowed, or is worth disavowing, you have full authority to do so. I never wrote, nor conceived, a line on any thing of the kind, any more than of two other things with which I was saddled—something about 'Gaul,' and another about 'Mrs. La Valette;' and as to the 'Lily of France,' I should as soon think of celebrating a turnip. 'On the Morning of my Daughter's Birth,' I had other things to think of than verses; and should never have dreamed of such an invention, till Mr. Johnston and his pamphlet's advertisement broke in upon me with a new light on the crafts and subtleties of the demon of printing,—or rather publishing.
"I did hope that some succeeding lie would have superseded the thousand and one which were accumulated during last winter. I can forgive whatever may be said of or against me, but not what they make me say or sing for myself. It is enough to answer for what I have written; but it were too much for Job himself to bear what one has not. I suspect that when the Arab Patriarch wished that his 'enemy had written a book,' he did not anticipate his own name on the title-page. I feel quite as much bored with this foolery as it deserves, and more than I should be if I had not a headach.
"Of Glenarvon, Madame de Stael told me (ten days ago, at Copet) marvellous and grievous things; but I have seen nothing of it but the motto, which promises amiably 'for us and for our tragedy.' If such be the posy, what should the ring be? 'a name to all succeeding,' &c. The generous moment selected for the publication is probably its kindest accompaniment, and—truth to say—the time was well chosen. I have not even a guess at the contents, except from the very vague accounts I have heard.
"I ought to be ashamed of the egotism of this letter. It is not my fault altogether, and I shall be but too happy to drop the subject when others will allow me.
"I am in tolerable plight, and in my last letter told you what I had done in the way of all rhyme. I trust that you prosper, and that your authors are in good condition. I should suppose your stud has received some increase by what I hear. Bertram must be a good horse; does he run next meeting? I hope you will beat the Row. Yours alway," &c.
[Footnote 108: The following was the advertisement enclosed:—
"Neatly printed and hot-pressed, 2s. 6d.
"Lord Byron's Farewell to England, with Three other Poems—Ode to St. Helena, to My Daughter on her Birthday, and To the Lily of France.
"Printed by J. Johnston, Cheapside, 335.; Oxford, 9.
"The above beautiful Poems will be read with the most lively interest, as it is probable they will be the last of the author's that will appear in England." ]
[Footnote 109: The motto is—
He left a name to all succeeding times, Link'd with one virtue and a thousand crimes." ]
* * * * *
LETTER 244. TO MR. ROGERS.
"Diodati, near Geneva, July 29. 1816.
"Do you recollect a book, Mathieson's Letters, which you lent me, which I have still, and yet hope to return to your library? Well, I have encountered at Copet and elsewhere Gray's correspondent, that same Bonstetten, to whom I lent the translation of his correspondent's epistles, for a few days; but all he could remember of Gray amounts to little, except that he was the most 'melancholy and gentlemanlike' of all possible poets. Bonstetten himself is a fine and very lively old man, and much esteemed by his compatriots; he is also a litterateur of good repute, and all his friends have a mania of addressing to him volumes of letters—Mathieson, Muller the historian, &c.&c. He is a good deal at Copet, where I have met him a few times. All there are well, except Rocca, who, I am sorry to say, looks in a very bad state of health. Schlegel is in high force, and Madame as brilliant as ever.
"I came here by the Netherlands and the Rhine route, and Basle, Berne, Moral, and Lausanne. I have circumnavigated the Lake, and go to Chamouni with the first fair weather; but really we have had lately such stupid mists, fogs, and perpetual density, that one would think Castlereagh had the Foreign Affairs of the kingdom of Heaven also on his hands. I need say nothing to you of these parts, you having traversed them already. I do not think of Italy before September. I have read Glenarvon, and have also seen Ben. Constant's Adolphe, and his preface, denying the real people. It is a work which leaves an unpleasant impression, but very consistent with the consequences of not being in love, which is, perhaps, as disagreeable as any thing, except being so. I doubt, however, whether all such liens (as he calls them) terminate so wretchedly as his hero and heroine's.
"There is a third Canto (a longer than either of the former) of Childe Harold finished, and some smaller things,—among them a story on the Chateau de Chillon; I only wait a good opportunity to transmit them to the grand Murray, who, I hope, flourishes. Where is Moore? Why is he not out? My love to him, and my perfect consideration and remembrances to all, particularly to Lord and Lady Holland, and to your Duchess of Somerset.
"P.S. I send you a fac-simile, a note of Bonstetten's, thinking you might like to see the hand of Gray's correspondent."
* * * * *
LETTER 245. TO MR. MURRAY.
"Diodati, Sept. 29. 1816.
"I am very much flattered by Mr. Gifford's good opinion of the MSS., and shall be still more so if it answers your expectations and justifies his kindness. I liked it myself, but that must go for nothing. The feelings with which most of it was written need not be envied me. With regard to the price, I fixed none, but left it to Mr. Kinnaird, Mr. Shelley, and yourself, to arrange. Of course, they would do their best; and as to yourself, I knew you would make no difficulties. But I agree with Mr. Kinnaird perfectly, that the concluding five hundred should be only conditional; and for my own sake, I wish it to be added, only in case of your selling a certain number, that number to be fixed by yourself. I hope this is fair. In every thing of this kind there must be risk; and till that be past, in one way or the other, I would not willingly add to it, particularly in times like the present. And pray always recollect that nothing could mortify me more—no failure on my own part—than having made you lose by any purchase from me.
"The Monody was written by request of Mr. Kinnaird for the theatre. I did as well as I could; but where I have not my choice I pretend to answer for nothing. Mr. Hobhouse and myself are just returned from a journey of lakes and mountains. We have been to the Grindelwald, and the Jungfrau, and stood on the summit of the Wengen Alp; and seen torrents of nine hundred feet in fall, and glaciers of all dimensions: we have heard shepherds' pipes, and avalanches, and looked on the clouds foaming up from the valleys below us, like the spray of the ocean of hell. Chamouni, and that which it inherits, we saw a month ago: but though Mont Blanc is higher, it is not equal in wildness to the Jungfrau, the Eighers, the Shreckhorn, and the Rose Glaciers.
"We set off for Italy next week. The road is within this month infested with bandits, but we must take our chance and such precautions as are requisite.
"P.S. My best remembrances to Mr. Gifford. Pray say all that can be said from me to him.
"I am sorry that Mr. Maturin did not like Phillips's picture. I thought it was reckoned a good one. If he had made the speech on the original, perhaps he would have been more readily forgiven by the proprietor and the painter of the portrait * * *."
[Footnote 110: A Monody on the death of Sheridan, which was spoken at Drury Lane theatre.]
* * * * *
LETTER 246. TO MR. MURRAY.
"Diodati, Sept. 30. 1816.
"I answered your obliging letters yesterday: to-day the Monody arrived with its title-page, which is, I presume, a separate publication. 'The request of a friend:'—
'Obliged by hunger and request of friends.'
I will request you to expunge that same, unless you please to add, 'by a person of quality,' or 'of wit and honour about town.' Merely say, 'written to be spoken at Drury Lane.' To-morrow I dine at Copet. Saturday I strike tents for Italy. This evening, on the lake in my boat with Mr. Hobhouse, the pole which sustains the mainsail slipped in tacking, and struck me so violently on one of my legs (the worst, luckily) as to make me do a foolish thing, viz. to faint—a downright swoon; the thing must have jarred some nerve or other, for the bone is not injured, and hardly painful (it is six hours since), and cost Mr. Hobhouse some apprehension and much sprinkling of water to recover me. The sensation was a very odd one: I never had but two such before, once from a cut on the head from a stone, several years ago, and once (long ago also) in falling into a great wreath of snow;—a sort of grey giddiness first, then nothingness, and a total loss of memory on beginning to recover. The last part is not disagreeable, if one did not find it again.
"You want the original MSS. Mr. Davies has the first fair copy in my own hand, and I have the rough composition here, and will send or save it for you, since you wish it.
"With regard to your new literary project, if any thing falls in the way which will, to the best of my judgment, suit you, I will send you what I can. At present I must lay by a little, having pretty well exhausted myself in what I have sent you. Italy or Dalmatia and another summer may, or may not, set me off again. I have no plans, and am nearly as indifferent what may come as where I go. I shall take Felicia Heman's Restoration, &c. with me; it is a good poem—very.
"Pray repeat my best thanks and remembrances to Mr. Gifford for all his trouble and good nature towards me.
"Do not fancy me laid up, from the beginning of this scrawl. I tell you the accident for want of better to say; but it is over, and I am only wondering what the deuce was the matter with me.
"I have lately been over all the Bernese Alps and their lakes. I think many of the scenes (some of which were not those usually frequented by the English) finer than Chamouni, which I visited some time before. I have been to Clarens again, and crossed the mountains behind it: of this tour I kept a short journal for my sister, which I sent yesterday in three letters. It is not all for perusal; but if you like to hear about the romantic part, she will, I dare say, show you what touches upon the rocks, &c.
"Christabel—I won't have any one sneer at Christabel: it is a fine wild poem.
"Madame de Stael wishes to see the Antiquary, and I am going to take it to her to-morrow. She has made Copet as agreeable as society and talent can make any place on earth. Yours ever,
* * * * *
From the Journal mentioned in the foregoing letter, I am enabled to give the following extracts:—
EXTRACTS FROM A JOURNAL.
"September 18. 1816.
"Yesterday, September 17th, I set out with Mr. Hobhouse on an excursion of some days to the mountains.
"Rose at five; left Diodati about seven, in one of the country carriages (a char-a-banc), our servants on horseback. Weather very fine; the lake calm and clear; Mont Blanc and the Aiguille of Argentieres both very distinct; the borders of the lake beautiful. Reached Lausanne before sunset; stopped and slept at ——. Went to bed at nine: slept till five o'clock.
"Called by my courier; got up. Hobhouse walked on before. A mile from Lausanne, the road overflowed by the lake; got on horseback and rode till within a mile of Vevay. The colt young, but went very well. Overtook Hobhouse, and resumed the carriage, which is an open one. Stopped at Vevay two hours (the second time I had visited it); walked to the church; view from the churchyard superb; within it General Ludlow (the regicide's) monument—black marble—long inscription—Latin, but simple; he was an exile two-and-thirty-years—one of King Charles's judges. Near him Broughton (who read King Charles's sentence to Charles Stuart) is buried, with a queer and rather canting, but still a republican, inscription. Ludlow's house shown; it retains still its inscription—'Omne solum forti patria.' Walked down to the Lake side; servants, carriage, saddle-horses—all set off and left us plantes la, by some mistake, and we walked on after them towards Clarens: Hobhouse ran on before, and overtook them at last. Arrived the second time (first time was by water) at Clarens. Went to Chillon through scenery worthy of I know not whom; went over the Castle of Chillon again. On our return met an English party in a carriage; a lady in it fast asleep—fast asleep in the most anti-narcotic spot in the world—excellent! I remember, at Chamouni, in the very eyes of Mont Blanc, hearing another woman, English also, exclaim to her party, 'Did you ever see any thing more rural?'—as if it was Highgate, or Hampstead, or Brompton, or Hayes,—'Rural!' quotha.—Rocks, pines, torrents, glaciers, clouds, and summits of eternal snow far above them—and 'rural!'
"After a slight and short dinner we visited the Chateau de Clarens; an English woman has rented it recently (it was not let when I saw it first); the roses are gone with their summer; the family out, but the servants desired us to walk over the interior of the mansion. Saw on the table of the saloon Blair's Sermons and somebody else's (I forget who's) sermons, and a set of noisy children. Saw all worth seeing, and then descended to the 'Bosquet de Julie,' &c. &c.; our guide full of Rousseau, whom he is eternally confounding with St. Preux, and mixing the man and the book. Went again as far as Chillon to revisit the little torrent from the hill behind it. Sunset reflected in the lake. Have to get up at five to-morrow to cross the mountains on horseback; carriage to be sent round; lodged at my old cottage—hospitable and comfortable; tired with a longish ride on the colt, and the subsequent jolting of the char-a-banc, and my scramble in the hot sun.
"Mem. The corporal who showed the wonders of Chillon was as drunk as Blucher, and (to my mind) as great a man; he was deaf also, and thinking every one else so, roared out the legends of the castle so fearfully that H. got out of humour. However, we saw things from the gallows to the dungeons (the potence and the cachots), and returned to Clarens with more freedom than belonged to the fifteenth century.
"Rose at five. Crossed the mountains to Montbovon on horseback, and on mules, and, by dint of scrambling, on foot also; the whole route beautiful as a dream, and now to me almost as indistinct. I am so tired;—for though healthy, I have not the strength I possessed but a few years ago. At Montbovon we breakfasted; afterwards, on a steep ascent dismounted; tumbled down; cut a finger open; the baggage also got loose and fell down a ravine, till stopped by a large tree; recovered baggage; horse tired and drooping; mounted mule. At the approach of the summit of Dent Jument dismounted again with Hobhouse and all the party. Arrived at a lake in the very bosom of the mountains; left our quadrupeds with a shepherd, and ascended farther; came to some snow in patches, upon which my forehead's perspiration fell like rain, making the same dints as in a sieve; the chill of the wind and the snow turned me giddy, but I scrambled on and upwards. Hobhouse went to the highest pinnacle; I did not, but paused within a few yards (at an opening of the cliff). In coming down, the guide tumbled three times; I fell a laughing, and tumbled too—the descent luckily soft, though steep and slippery: Hobhouse also fell, but nobody hurt. The whole of the mountains superb. A shepherd on a very steep and high cliff playing upon his pipe; very different from Arcadia, where I saw the pastors with a long musket instead of a crook, and pistols in their girdles. Our Swiss shepherd's pipe was sweet, and his tune agreeable. I saw a cow strayed; am told that they often break their necks on and over the crags. Descended to Montbovon; pretty scraggy village, with a wild river and a wooden bridge. Hobhouse went to fish—caught one. Our carriage not come; our horses, mules, &c. knocked up; ourselves fatigued; but so much the better—I shall sleep.
"The view from the highest points of to-day's journey comprised on one side the greatest part of Lake Leman; on the other, the valleys and mountain of the Canton of Fribourg, and an immense plain, with the lakes of Neuchatel and Morat, and all which the borders of the Lake of Geneva inherit; we had both sides of the Jura before us in one point of view, with Alps in plenty. In passing a ravine, the guide recommended strenuously a quickening of pace, as the stones fall with great rapidity and occasional damage; the advice is excellent, but, like most good advice, impracticable, the road being so rough that neither mules, nor mankind, nor horses, can make any violent progress. Passed without fractures or menace thereof.
"The music of the cow's bells (for their wealth, like the patriarchs', is cattle) in the pastures, which reach to a height far above any mountains in Britain, and the shepherds shouting to us from crag to crag, and playing on their reeds where the steeps appeared almost inaccessible, with the surrounding scenery, realised all that I have ever heard or imagined of a pastoral existence:—much more so than Greece or Asia Minor, for there we are a little too much of the sabre and musket order, and if there is a crook in one hand, you are sure to see a gun in the other:—but this was pure and unmixed—solitary, savage, and patriarchal. As we went, they played the 'Rans des Vaches' and other airs, by way of farewell. I have lately repeopled my mind with nature.
[Footnote 111: Dent de Jaman.]
Up at six; off at eight. The whole of this day's journey at an average of between from 2700 to 3000 feet above the level of the sea. This valley, the longest, narrowest, and considered the finest of the Alps, little traversed by travellers. Saw the bridge of La Roche. The bed of the river very low and deep, between immense rocks, and rapid as anger;—a man and mule said to have tumbled over without damage. The people looked free, and happy, and rich (which last implies neither of the former); the cows superb; a bull nearly leapt into the char-a-banc—'agreeable companion in a post-chaise;' goats and sheep very thriving. A mountain with enormous glaciers to the right—the Klitzgerberg; further on, the Hockthorn—nice names—so soft!—Stockhorn, I believe, very lofty and scraggy, patched with snow only; no glaciers on it, but some good epaulettes of clouds.
"Passed the boundaries, out of Vaud and into Berne canton; French exchanged for bad German; the district famous for cheese, liberty, property, and no taxes. Hobhouse went to fish—caught none. Strolled to the river; saw boy and kid; kid followed him like a dog; kid could not get over a fence, and bleated piteously; tried myself to help kid, but nearly overset both self and kid into the river. Arrived here about six in the evening. Nine o'clock—going to bed; not tired to day, but hope to sleep, nevertheless.
"Off early. The valley of Simmenthal as before. Entrance to the plain of Thoun very narrow; high rocks, wooded to the top; river; new mountains, with fine glaciers. Lake of Thoun; extensive plain with a girdle of Alps. Walked down to the Chateau de Schadau; view along the lake; crossed the river in a boat rowed by women. Thoun a very pretty town. The whole day's journey Alpine and proud.
"Left Thoun in a boat, which carried us the length of the lake in three hours. The lake small; but the banks fine. Rocks down to the water's edge. Landed at Newhause; passed Interlachen; entered upon a range of scenes beyond all description or previous conception. Passed a rock; inscription—two brothers—one murdered the other; just the place for it. After a variety of windings came to an enormous rock. Arrived at the foot of the mountain (the Jungfrau, that is, the Maiden); glaciers; torrents; one of these torrents nine hundred feet in height of visible descent. Lodged at the curate's. Set out to see the valley; heard an avalanche fall, like thunder; glaciers enormous; storm came on, thunder, lightning, hail; all in perfection, and beautiful. I was on horseback; guide wanted to carry my cane; I was going to give it him, when I recollected that it was a sword-stick, and I thought the lightning might be attracted towards him; kept it myself; a good deal encumbered with it, as it was too heavy for a whip, and the horse was stupid, and stood with every other peal. Got in, not very wet, the cloak being stanch. Hobhouse wet through; Hobhouse took refuge in cottage; sent man, umbrella, and cloak (from the curate's when I arrived) after him. Swiss curate's house very good indeed—much better than most English vicarages. It is immediately opposite the torrent I spoke of. The torrent is in shape curving over the rock, like the tail of a white horse streaming in the wind, such as it might be conceived would be that of the 'pale horse' on which Death is mounted in the Apocalypse. It is neither mist nor water, but a something between both; its immense height (nine hundred feet) gives it a wave or curve, a spreading here or condensation there, wonderful and indescribable. I think, upon the whole, that this day has been better than any of this present excursion.
[Footnote 112: It is interesting to observe the use to which he afterwards converted these hasty memorandums in his sublime drama of Manfred.
"It is not noon—the sunbow's rays still arch The torrent with the many hues of heaven, And roll the sheeted silver's waving column O'er the crag's headlong perpendicular, And fling its lines of foaming light along, And to and fro, like the pale coursers tail, The Giant steed, to be bestrode by Death As told in the Apocalypse." ]
"Before ascending the mountain, went to the torrent (seven in the morning) again; the sun upon it, forming a rainbow of the lower part of all colours, but principally purple and gold; the bow moving as you move; I never saw any thing like this; it is only in the sunshine. Ascended the Wengen mountain; at noon reached a valley on the summit; left the horses, took off my coat, and went to the summit, seven thousand feet (English feet) above the level of the sea, and about five thousand above the valley we left in the morning. On one side, our view comprised the Jungfrau, with all her glaciers; then the Dent d'Argent, shining like truth; then the Little Giant (the Kleine Eigher); and the Great Giant (the Grosse Eigher), and last, not least, the Wetterhorn. The height of Jungfrau is 13,000 feet above the sea, 11,000 above the valley; she is the highest of this range. Heard the avalanches falling every five minutes nearly. From whence we stood, on the Wengen Alp, we had all these in view on one side; on the other, the clouds rose from the opposite valley, curling up perpendicular precipices like the foam of the ocean of hell, during a spring tide—it was white, and sulphury, and immeasurably deep in appearance. The side we ascended was (of course) not of so precipitous a nature; but on arriving at the summit, we looked down upon the other side upon a boiling sea of cloud, dashing against the crags on which we stood (these crags on one side quite perpendicular). Stayed a quarter of an hour; begun to descend; quite clear from cloud on that side of the mountain. In passing the masses of snow, I made a snowball and pelted Hobhouse with it.
"Got down to our horses again; ate something; remounted; heard the avalanches still; came to a morass; Hobhouse dismounted to get over well; I tried to pass my horse over; the horse sunk up to the chin, and of course he and I were in the mud together; bemired, but not hurt; laughed, and rode on. Arrived at the Grindelwald; dined; mounted again, and rode to the higher glacier—like a frozen hurricane. Starlight, beautiful, but a devil of a path! Never mind, got safe in; a little lightning; but the whole of the day as fine in point of weather as the day on which Paradise was made. Passed whole woods of withered pines, all withered; trunks stripped and barkless, branches lifeless; done by a single winter,—their appearance reminded me of me and my family.
"Ye avalanches, whom a breath draws down In mountainous o'erwhelming, come and crush me! I hear ye momently above, beneath, Crash with a frequent conflict. * * * The mists boil up around the glaciers; clouds Rise curling fast beneath me, white and sulphury, Like foam from the roused ocean of deep hell!" MANFRED. ]
"O'er the savage sea, The glassy ocean of the mountain ice, We skim its rugged breakers, which put on The aspect of a tumbling tempest's foam, Frozen in a moment." MANFRED. ]
"Like these blasted pines, Wrecks of a single winter, barkless, branchless." IBID. ]
"Set off at seven; up at five. Passed the black glacier, the mountain Wetterhorn on the right; crossed the Scheideck mountain; came to the Rose glacier, said to be the largest and finest in Switzerland, I think the Bossons glacier at Chamouni as fine; Hobhouse does not. Came to the Reichenbach waterfall, two hundred feet high; halted to rest the horses. Arrived in the valley of Overland; rain came on; drenched a little; only four hours' rain, however, in eight days. Came to the lake of Brientz, then to the town of Brientz; changed. In the evening, four Swiss peasant girls of Oberhasli came and sang the airs of their country; two of the voices beautiful—the tunes also: so wild and original, and at the same time of great sweetness. The singing is over; but below stairs I hear the notes of a fiddle, which bode no good to my night's rest; I shall go down and see the dancing.
"The whole town of Brientz were apparently gathered together in the rooms below; pretty music and excellent waltzing; none but peasants; the dancing much better than in England; the English can't waltz, never could, never will. One man with his pipe in his mouth, but danced as well as the others; some other dances in pairs and in fours, and very good. I went to bed, but the revelry continued below late and early. Brientz but a village. Rose early. Embarked on the lake of Brientz, rowed by the women in a long boat; presently we put to shore, and another woman jumped in. It seems it is the custom here for the boats to be manned by women: for of five men and three women in our bark, all the women took an oar, and but one man.
"Got to Interlachen in three hours; pretty lake; not so large as that of Thoun. Dined at Interlachen. Girl gave me some flowers, and made me a speech in German, of which I know nothing; I do not know whether the speech was pretty, but as the woman was, I hope so. Re-embarked on the lake of Thoun; fell asleep part of the way; sent our horses round; found people on the shore, blowing up a rock with gunpowder; they blew it up near our boat, only telling us a minute before;—mere stupidity, but they might have broken our noddles. Got to Thoun in the evening; the weather has been tolerable the whole day. But as the wild part of our tour is finished, it don't matter to us; in all the desirable part, we have been most lucky in warmth and clearness of atmosphere.
"Being out of the mountains, my journal must be as flat as my journey. From Thoun to Berne, good road, hedges, villages, industry, property, and all sorts of tokens of insipid civilisation. From Berne to Fribourg; different canton; Catholics; passed a field of battle; Swiss beat the French in one of the late wars against the French republic. Bought a dog. The greater part of this tour has been on horseback, on foot, and on mule.
"Saw the tree planted in honour of the battle of Morat; three hundred and forty years old; a good deal decayed. Left Fribourg, but first saw the cathedral; high tower. Overtook the baggage of the nuns of La Trappe, who are removing to Normandy; afterwards a coach, with a quantity of nuns in it. Proceeded along the banks of the lake of Neuchatel; very pleasing and soft, but not so mountainous—at least, the Jura, not appearing so, after the Bernese Alps. Reached Yverdun in the dusk; a long line of large trees on the border of the lake; fine and sombre; the auberge nearly full—a German princess and suite; got rooms.
"Passed through a fine and flourishing country, but not mountainous. In the evening reached Aubonne (the entrance and bridge something like that of Durham), which commands by far the fairest view of the Lake of Geneva; twilight; the moon on the lake; a grove on the height, and of very noble trees. Here Tavernier (the eastern traveller) bought (or built) the chateau, because the site resembled and equalled that of Erivan, a frontier city of Persia; here he finished his voyages, and I this little excursion,—for I am within a few hours of Diodati, and have little more to see, and no more to say."
With the following melancholy passage this Journal concludes:—
"In the weather for this tour (of 13 days), I have been very fortunate—fortunate in a companion (Mr. H.)—fortunate in our prospects, and exempt from even the little petty accidents and delays which often render journeys in a less wild country disappointing. I was disposed to be pleased. I am a lover of nature and an admirer of beauty. I can bear fatigue and welcome privation, and have seen some of the noblest views in the world. But in all this—the recollection of bitterness, and more especially of recent and more home desolation, which must accompany me through life, have preyed upon me here; and neither the music of the shepherd, the crashing of the avalanche, nor the torrent, the mountain, the glacier, the forest, nor the cloud, have for one moment lightened the weight upon my heart, nor enabled me to lose my own wretched identity in the majesty, and the power, and the glory, around, above, and beneath me."
* * * * *
Among the inmates at Secheron, on his arrival at Geneva, Lord Byron had found Mr. and Mrs. Shelley, and a female relative of the latter, who had about a fortnight before taken up their residence at this hotel. It was the first time that Lord Byron and Mr. Shelley ever met; though, long before, when the latter was quite a youth,—being the younger of the two by four or five years,—he had sent to the noble poet a copy of his Queen Mab, accompanied by a letter, in which, after detailing at full length all the accusations he had heard brought against his character, he added, that, should these charges not have been true, it would make him happy to be honoured with his acquaintance. The book alone, it appears, reached its destination,—the letter having miscarried,—and Lord Byron was known to have expressed warm admiration of the opening lines of the poem.
There was, therefore, on their present meeting at Geneva, no want of disposition towards acquaintance on either side, and an intimacy almost immediately sprung up between them. Among the tastes common to both, that for boating was not the least strong; and in this beautiful region they had more than ordinary temptations to indulge in it. Every evening, during their residence under the same roof at Secheron, they embarked, accompanied by the ladies and Polidori, on the Lake; and to the feelings and fancies inspired by these excursions, which were not unfrequently prolonged into the hours of moonlight, we are indebted for some of those enchanting stanzas in which the poet has given way to his passionate love of Nature so fervidly.
"There breathes a living fragrance from the shore Of flowers yet fresh with childhood; on the ear Drips the light drop of the suspended oar. * * * * * At intervals, some bird from out the brakes Starts into voice a moment, then is still. There seems a floating whisper on the hill, But that is fancy,—for the starlight dews All silently their tears of love instil, Weeping themselves away."
A person who was of these parties has thus described to me one of their evenings:—"When the bise or north-east wind blows, the waters of the Lake are driven towards the town, and with the stream of the Rhone, which sets strongly in the same direction, combine to make a very rapid current towards the harbour. Carelessly, one evening, we had yielded to its course, till we found ourselves almost driven on the piles; and it required all our rowers' strength to master the tide. The waves were high and inspiriting—we were all animated by our contest with the elements. 'I will sing you an Albanian song,' cried Lord Byron; 'now, be sentimental and give me all your attention.' It was a strange, wild howl that he gave forth; but such as, he declared, was an exact imitation of the savage Albanian mode,—laughing, the while, at our disappointment, who had expected a wild Eastern melody."
Sometimes the party landed, for a walk upon the shore, and, on such occasions, Lord Byron would loiter behind the rest, lazily trailing his sword-stick along, and moulding, as he went, his thronging thoughts into shape. Often too, when in the boat, he would lean abstractedly over the side, and surrender himself up, in silence, to the same absorbing task.
The conversation of Mr. Shelley, from the extent of his poetic reading, and the strange, mystic speculations into which his system of philosophy led him, was of a nature strongly to arrest and interest the attention of Lord Byron, and to turn him away from worldly associations and topics into more abstract and untrodden ways of thought. As far as contrast, indeed, is an enlivening ingredient of such intercourse, it would be difficult to find two persons more formed to whet each other's faculties by discussion, as on few points of common interest between them did their opinions agree; and that this difference had its root deep in the conformation of their respective minds needs but a glance through the rich, glittering labyrinth of Mr. Shelley's pages to assure us.
In Lord Byron, the real was never forgotten in the fanciful. However Imagination had placed her whole realm at his disposal, he was no less a man of this world than a ruler of hers; and, accordingly, through the airiest and most subtile creations of his brain still the life-blood of truth and reality circulates. With Shelley it was far otherwise;—his fancy (and he had sufficient for a whole generation of poets) was the medium through which he saw all things, his facts as well as his theories; and not only the greater part of his poetry, but the political and philosophical speculations in which he indulged, were all distilled through the same over-refining and unrealising alembic. Having started as a teacher and reformer of the world, at an age when he could know nothing of the world but from fancy, the persecution he met with on the threshold of this boyish enterprise but confirmed him in his first paradoxical views of human ills and their remedies; and, instead of waiting to take lessons of authority and experience, he, with a courage, admirable had it been but wisely directed, made war upon both. From this sort of self-willed start in the world, an impulse was at once given to his opinions and powers directly contrary, it would seem, to their natural bias, and from which his life was too short to allow him time to recover. With a mind, by nature, fervidly pious, he yet refused to acknowledge a Supreme Providence, and substituted some airy abstraction of "Universal Love" in its place. An aristocrat by birth and, as I understand, also in appearance and manners, he was yet a leveller in politics, and to such an Utopian extent as to be, seriously, the advocate of a community of property. With a delicacy and even romance of sentiment, which lends such grace to some of his lesser poems, he could notwithstanding contemplate a change in the relations of the sexes, which would have led to results fully as gross as his arguments for it were fastidious and refined; and though benevolent and generous to an extent that seemed to exclude all idea of selfishness, he yet scrupled not, in the pride of system, to disturb wantonly the faith of his fellowmen, and, without substituting any equivalent good in its place, to rob the wretched of a hope, which, even if false, would be worth all this world's best truths.
Upon no point were the opposite tendencies of the two friends,—to long-established opinions and matter of fact on one side, and to all that was most innovating and visionary on the other,—more observable than in their notions on philosophical subjects; Lord Byron being, with the great bulk of mankind, a believer in the existence of Matter and Evil, while Shelley so far refined upon the theory of Berkeley as not only to resolve the whole of Creation into spirit, but to add also to this immaterial system some pervading principle, some abstract non-entity of Love and Beauty, of which—as a substitute, at least, for Deity—the philosophic bishop had never dreamed. On such subjects, and on poetry, their conversation generally turned; and, as might be expected, from Lord Byron's facility in receiving new impressions, the opinions of his companion were not altogether without some influence on his mind. Here and there, among those fine bursts of passion and description that abound in the third Canto of Childe Harold, may be discovered traces of that mysticism of meaning,—that sublimity, losing itself in its own vagueness,—which so much characterised the writings of his extraordinary friend; and in one of the notes we find Shelley's favourite Pantheism of Love thus glanced at:—"But this is not all: the feeling with which all around Clarens and the opposite rocks of Meillerie is invested, is of a still higher and more comprehensive order than the mere sympathy with individual passion; it is a sense of the existence of love in its most extended and sublime capacity, and of our own participation of its good and of its glory: it is the great principle of the universe, which is there more condensed, but not less manifested; and of which, though knowing ourselves a part, we lose our individuality, and mingle in the beauty of the whole."
Another proof of the ductility with which he fell into his new friend's tastes and predilections, appears in the tinge, if not something deeper, of the manner and cast of thinking of Mr. Wordsworth, which is traceable through so many of his most beautiful stanzas. Being naturally, from his love of the abstract and imaginative, an admirer of the great poet of the Lakes, Mr. Shelley omitted no opportunity of bringing the beauties of his favourite writer under the notice of Lord Byron; and it is not surprising that, once persuaded into a fair perusal, the mind of the noble poet should—in spite of some personal and political prejudices which unluckily survived this short access of admiration—not only feel the influence but, in some degree, even reflect the hues of one of the very few real and original poets that this age (fertile as it is in rhymers quales ego et Cluvienus) has had the glory of producing.
When Polidori was of their party, (which, till he found attractions elsewhere, was generally the case,) their more elevated subjects of conversation were almost always put to flight by the strange sallies of this eccentric young man, whose vanity made him a constant butt for Lord Byron's sarcasm and merriment. The son of a highly respectable Italian gentleman, who was in early life, I understand, the secretary of Alfieri, Polidori seems to have possessed both talents and dispositions which, had he lived, might have rendered him a useful member of his profession and of society. At the time, however, of which we are speaking, his ambition of distinction far outwent both his powers and opportunities of attaining it. His mind, accordingly, between ardour and weakness, was kept in a constant hectic of vanity, and he seems to have alternately provoked and amused his noble employer, leaving him seldom any escape from anger but in laughter. Among other pretensions, he had set his heart upon shining as an author, and one evening at Mr. Shelley's, producing a tragedy of his own writing, insisted that they should undergo the operation of hearing it. To lighten the infliction, Lord Byron took upon himself the task of reader; and the whole scene, from the description I have heard of it, must have been not a little trying to gravity. In spite of the jealous watch kept upon every countenance by the author, it was impossible to withstand the smile lurking in the eye of the reader, whose only resource against the outbreak of his own laughter lay in lauding, from time to time, most vehemently, the sublimity of the verses;—particularly some that began "'Tis thus the goiter'd idiot of the Alps,'—and then adding, at the close of every such eulogy, "I assure you when I was in the Drury Lane Committee, much worse things were offered to us."
After passing a fortnight under the same roof with Lord Byron at Secheron, Mr. and Mrs. Shelley removed to a small house on the Mont-Blanc side of the Lake, within about ten minutes' walk of the villa which their noble friend had taken, upon the high banks, called Belle Rive, that rose immediately behind them. During the fortnight that Lord Byron outstaid them at Secheron, though the weather had changed and was become windy and cloudy, he every evening crossed the Lake, with Polidori, to visit them; and "as he returned again (says my informant) over the darkened waters, the wind, from far across, bore us his voice singing your Tyrolese Song of Liberty, which I then first heard, and which is to me inextricably linked with his remembrance."
In the mean time, Polidori had become jealous of the growing intimacy of his noble patron with Shelley; and the plan which he now understood them to have formed of making a tour of the Lake without him completed his mortification. In the soreness of his feelings on this subject he indulged in some intemperate remonstrances, which Lord Byron indignantly resented; and the usual bounds of courtesy being passed on both sides, the dismissal of Polidori appeared, even to himself, inevitable. With this prospect, which he considered nothing less than ruin, before his eyes, the poor young man was, it seems, on the point of committing that fatal act which, two or three years afterwards, he actually did perpetrate. Retiring to his own room, he had already drawn forth the poison from his medicine chest, and was pausing to consider whether he should write a letter before he took it, when Lord Byron (without, however, the least suspicion of his intention) tapped at the door and entered, with his hand held forth in sign of reconciliation. The sudden revulsion was too much for poor Polidori, who burst into tears; and, in relating all the circumstances of the occurrence afterwards, he declared that nothing could exceed the gentle kindness of Lord Byron in soothing his mind and restoring him to composure.
Soon after this the noble poet removed to Diodati. He had, on his first coming to Geneva, with the good-natured view of introducing Polidori into company, gone to several Genevese parties; but, this task performed, he retired altogether from society till late in the summer, when, as we have seen, he visited Copet. His means were at this time very limited; and though he lived by no means parsimoniously, all unnecessary expenses were avoided in his establishment. The young physician had been, at first, a source of much expense to him, being in the habit of hiring a carriage, at a louis a day (Lord Byron not then keeping horses), to take him to his evening parties; and it was some time before his noble patron had the courage to put this luxury down.
The liberty, indeed, which this young person allowed himself was, on one occasion, the means of bringing an imputation upon the poet's hospitality and good breeding, which, like every thing else, true or false, tending to cast a shade upon his character, was for some time circulated with the most industrious zeal. Without any authority from the noble owner of the mansion, he took upon himself to invite some Genevese gentlemen (M. Pictet, and, I believe, M. Bonstetten) to dine at Diodati; and the punishment which Lord Byron thought it right to inflict upon him for such freedom was, "as he had invited the guests, to leave him also to entertain them." This step, though merely a consequence of the physician's indiscretion, it was not difficult, of course, to convert into a serious charge of caprice and rudeness against the host himself.
By such repeated instances of thoughtlessness (to use no harsher term), it is not wonderful that Lord Byron should at last be driven into a feeling of distaste towards his medical companion, of whom he one day remarked, that "he was exactly the kind of person to whom, if he fell overboard, one would hold out a straw, to know if the adage be true that drowning men catch at straws."
A few more anecdotes of this young man, while in the service of Lord Byron, may, as throwing light upon the character of the latter, be not inappropriately introduced. While the whole party were, one day, out boating, Polidori, by some accident, in rowing, struck Lord Byron violently on the knee-pan with his oar; and the latter, without speaking, turned his face away to hide the pain. After a moment he said, "Be so kind, Polidori, another time, to take more care, for you hurt me very much."—"I am glad of it," answered the other; "I am glad to see you can suffer pain." In a calm suppressed tone, Lord Byron replied, "Let me advise you, Polidori, when you, another time, hurt any one, not to express your satisfaction. People don't like to be told that those who give them pain are glad of it; and they cannot always command their anger. It was with some difficulty that I refrained from throwing you into the water; and, but for Mrs. Shelley's presence, I should probably have done some such rash thing." This was said without ill temper, and the cloud soon passed away.
Another time, when the lady just mentioned was, after a shower of rain, walking up the hill to Diodati, Lord Byron, who saw her from his balcony where he was standing with Polidori, said to the latter, "Now, you who wish to be gallant ought to jump down this small height, and offer your arm." Polidori chose the easiest part of the declivity, and leaped;—but the ground being wet, his foot slipped, and he sprained his ankle. Lord Byron instantly helped to carry him in and procure cold water for the foot; and, after he was laid on the sofa, perceiving that he was uneasy, went up stairs himself (an exertion which his lameness made painful and disagreeable) to fetch a pillow for him. "Well, I did not believe you had so much feeling," was Polidori's gracious remark, which, it may be supposed, not a little clouded the noble poet's brow.
A dialogue which Lord Byron himself used to mention as having taken place between them during their journey on the Rhine, is amusingly characteristic of both the persons concerned. "After all," said the physician, "what is there you can do that I cannot?"—"Why, since you force me to say," answered the other, "I think there are three things I can do which you cannot." Polidori defied him to name them. "I can," said Lord Byron, "swim across that river—I can snuff out that candle with a pistol-shot at the distance of twenty paces—and I have written a poem of which 14,000 copies were sold in one day."
The jealous pique of the Doctor against Shelley was constantly breaking out; and on the occasion of some victory which the latter had gained over him in a sailing-match, he took it into his head that his antagonist had treated him with contempt; and went so far, in consequence, notwithstanding Shelley's known sentiments against duelling, as to proffer him a sort of challenge, at which Shelley, as might be expected, only laughed. Lord Byron, however, fearing that the vivacious physician might still further take advantage of this peculiarity of his friend, said to him, "Recollect, that though Shelley has some scruples about duelling, I have none; and shall be, at all times, ready to take his place."
At Diodati, his life was passed in the same regular round of habits and occupations into which, when left to himself, he always naturally fell; a late breakfast, then a visit to the Shelleys' cottage and an excursion on the Lake;—at five, dinner (when he usually preferred being alone), and then, if the weather permitted, an excursion again. He and Shelley had joined in purchasing a boat, for which they gave twenty-five louis,—a small sailing vessel, fitted to stand the usual squalls of the climate, and, at that time, the only keeled boat on the Lake. When the weather did not allow of their excursions after dinner,—an occurrence not unfrequent during this very wet summer,—the inmates of the cottage passed their evenings at Diodati, and, when the rain rendered it inconvenient for them to return home, remained there to sleep. "We often," says one, who was not the least ornamental of the party, "sat up in conversation till the morning light. There was never any lack of subjects, and, grave or gay, we were always interested."
During a week of rain at this time, having amused themselves with reading German ghost-stories, they agreed, at last, to write something in imitation of them. "You and I," said Lord Byron to Mrs. Shelley, "will publish ours together." He then began his tale of the Vampire; and, having the whole arranged in his head, repeated to them a sketch of the story one evening,—but, from the narrative being in prose, made but little progress in filling up his outline. The most memorable result, indeed, of their story-telling compact, was Mrs. Shelley's wild and powerful romance of Frankenstein,—one of those original conceptions that take hold of the public mind at once, and for ever.
Towards the latter end of June, as we have seen in one of the preceding letters, Lord Byron, accompanied by his friend Shelley, made a tour in his boat round the Lake, and visited, "with the Heloise before him," all those scenes around Meillerie and Clarens, which have become consecrated for ever by ideal passion, and by that power which Genius alone possesses, of giving such life to its dreams as to make them seem realities. In the squall off Meillerie, which he mentions, their danger was considerable. In the expectation, every moment, of being obliged to swim for his life, Lord Byron had already thrown off his coat, and, as Shelley was no swimmer, insisted upon endeavouring, by some means, to save him. This offer, however, Shelley positively refused; and seating himself quietly upon a locker, and grasping the rings at each end firmly in his hands, declared his determination to go down in that position, without a struggle.
Subjoined to that interesting little work, the "Six Weeks' Tour," there is a letter by Shelley himself, giving an account of this excursion round the Lake, and written with all the enthusiasm such scenes should inspire. In describing a beautiful child they saw at the village of Nerni, he says, "My companion gave him a piece of money, which he took without speaking, with a sweet smile of easy thankfulness, and then with an unembarrassed air turned to his play." There were, indeed, few things Lord Byron more delighted in than to watch beautiful children at play;—"many a lovely Swiss child (says a person who saw him daily at this time) received crowns from him as the reward of their grace and sweetness."
Speaking of their lodgings at Nerni, which were gloomy and dirty, Mr. Shelley says, "On returning to our inn, we found that the servant had arranged our rooms, and deprived them of the greater portion of their former disconsolate appearance. They reminded my companion of Greece:—it was five years, he said, since he had slept in such beds."
Luckily for Shelley's full enjoyment of these scenes, he had never before happened to read the Heloise; and though his companion had long been familiar with that romance, the sight of the region itself, the "birth-place of deep Love," every spot of which seemed instinct with the passion of the story, gave to the whole a fresh and actual existence in his mind. Both were under the spell of the Genius of the place,—both full of emotion; and as they walked silently through the vineyards that were once the "bosquet de Julie," Lord Byron suddenly exclaimed, "Thank God, Polidori is not here."
That the glowing stanzas suggested to him by this scene were written upon the spot itself appears almost certain, from the letter addressed to Mr. Murray on his way back to Diodati, in which he announces the third Canto as complete, and consisting of 117 stanzas. At Ouchy, near Lausanne,—the place from which that letter is dated—he and his friend were detained two days, in a small inn, by the weather: and it was there, in that short interval, that he wrote his "Prisoner of Chillon," adding one more deathless association to the already immortalised localities of the Lake.
On his return from this excursion to Diodati, an occasion was afforded for the gratification of his jesting propensities by the avowal of the young physician that—he had fallen in love. On the evening of this tender confession they both appeared at Shelley's cottage—Lord Byron, in the highest and most boyish spirits, rubbing his hands as he walked about the room, and in that utter incapacity of retention which was one of his foibles, making jesting allusions to the secret he had just heard. The brow of the Doctor darkened as this pleasantry went on, and, at last, he angrily accused Lord Byron of hardness of heart. "I never," said he, "met with a person so unfeeling." This sally, though the poet had evidently brought it upon himself, annoyed him most deeply. "Call me cold-hearted—me insensible!" he exclaimed, with manifest emotion—"as well might you say that glass is not brittle, which has been cast down a precipice, and lies dashed to pieces at the foot!"
In the month of July he paid a visit to Copet, and was received by the distinguished hostess with a cordiality the more sensibly felt by him as, from his personal unpopularity at this time, he had hardly ventured to count upon it. In her usual frank style, she took him to task upon his matrimonial conduct—but in a way that won upon his mind, and disposed him to yield to her suggestions. He must endeavour, she told him, to bring about a reconciliation with his wife, and must submit to contend no longer with the opinion of the world. In vain did he quote her own motto to Delphine, "Un homme peut braver, une femme doit se succomber aux opinions du monde;"—her reply was, that all this might be very well to say, but that, in real life, the duty and necessity of yielding belonged also to the man. Her eloquence, in short, so far succeeded, that he was prevailed upon to write a letter to a friend in England, declaring himself still willing to be reconciled to Lady Byron,—a concession not a little startling to those who had so often, lately, heard him declare that, "having done all in his power to persuade Lady Byron to return, and with this view put off as long as he could signing the deed of separation, that step being once taken, they were now divided for ever."
Of the particulars of this brief negotiation that ensued upon Madame de Stael's suggestion, I have no very accurate remembrance; but there can be little doubt that its failure, after the violence he had done his own pride in the overture, was what first infused any mixture of resentment or bitterness into the feelings hitherto entertained by him throughout these painful differences. He had, indeed, since his arrival in Geneva, invariably spoken of his lady with kindness and regret, imputing the course she had taken, in leaving him, not to herself but others, and assigning whatever little share of blame he would allow her to bear in the transaction to the simple and, doubtless, true cause—her not at all understanding him. "I have no doubt," he would sometimes say, "that she really did believe me to be mad."
Another resolution connected with his matrimonial affairs, in which he often, at this time, professed his fixed intention to persevere, was that of never allowing himself to touch any part of his wife's fortune. Such a sacrifice, there is no doubt, would have been, in his situation, delicate and manly; but though the natural bent of his disposition led him to make the resolution, he wanted,—what few, perhaps, could have attained,—the fortitude to keep it.
The effects of the late struggle on his mind, in stirring up all its resources and energies, was visible in the great activity of his genius during the whole of this period, and the rich variety, both in character and colouring, of the works with which it teemed. Besides the third Canto of Childe Harold and the Prisoner of Chillon, he produced also his two poems, "Darkness" and "The Dream," the latter of which cost him many a tear in writing,—being, indeed, the most mournful, as well as picturesque, "story of a wandering life" that ever came from the pen and heart of man. Those verses, too, entitled "The Incantation," which he introduced afterwards, without any connection with the subject, into Manfred, were also (at least, the less bitter portion of them) the production of this period; and as they were written soon after the last fruitless attempt at reconciliation, it is needless to say who was in his thoughts while he penned some of the opening stanzas.
"Though thy slumber must be deep, Yet thy spirit shall not sleep; There are shades which will not vanish, There are thoughts thou canst not banish; By a power to thee unknown, Thou canst never be alone; Thou art wrapt as with a shroud, Thou art gather'd in a cloud; And for ever shalt thou dwell In the spirit of this spell.
"Though thou see'st me not pass by, Thou shalt feel me with thine eye, As a thing that, though unseen, Must be near thee, and hath been; And when, in that secret dread, Thou hast turn'd around thy head, Thou shalt marvel I am not As thy shadow on the spot, And the power which thou dost feel Shall be what thou must conceal."
Besides the unfinished "Vampire," he began also, at this time, another romance in prose, founded upon the story of the Marriage of Belphegor, and intended to shadow out his own matrimonial fate. The wife of this satanic personage he described much in the same spirit that pervades his delineation of Donna Inez in the first Canto of Don Juan. While engaged, however, in writing this story, he heard from England that Lady Byron was ill, and, his heart softening at the intelligence, he threw the manuscript into the fire. So constantly were the good and evil principles of his nature conflicting for mastery over him.
The two following Poems, so different from each other in their character,—the first prying with an awful scepticism into the darkness of another world, and the second breathing all that is most natural and tender in the affections of this,—were also written at this time, and have never before been published.
[Footnote 116: Childe Harold, Canto iii.]
[Footnote 117: To this lameness of Polidori, one of the preceding letters of Lord Byron alludes.]
[Footnote 118: The Corsair.]
[Footnote 119: His system of diet here was regulated by an abstinence almost incredible. A thin slice of bread, with tea, at breakfast—a light, vegetable dinner, with a bottle or two of Seltzer water, tinged with vin de Grave, and in the evening, a cup of green tea, without milk or sugar, formed the whole of his sustenance. The pangs of hunger he appeased by privately chewing tobacco and smoking cigars.]
[Footnote 120: From his remembrance of this sketch, Polidori afterwards vamped up his strange novel of the Vampire, which, under the supposition of its being Lord Byron's, was received with such enthusiasm in France. It would, indeed, not a little deduct from our value of foreign fame, if what some French writers have asserted be true, that the appearance of this extravagant novel among our neighbours first attracted their attention to the genius of Byron.]
[Footnote 121: "The wind (says Lord Byron's fellow-voyager) gradually increased in violence until it blew tremendously; and, as it came from the remotest extremity of the Lake, produced waves of a frightful height, and covered the whole surface with a chaos of foam. One of our boatmen, who was a dreadfully stupid fellow, persisted in holding the sail at a time when the boat was on the point of being driven under water by the hurricane. On discovering this error, he let it entirely go, and the boat for a moment refused to obey the helm; in addition, the rudder was so broken as to render the management of it very difficult; one wave fell in, and then another."]
[Footnote 122: "I felt, in this near prospect of death (says Mr. Shelley), a mixture of sensations, among which terror entered, though but subordinately. My feelings would have been less painful had I been alone; but I knew that my companion would have attempted to save me, and I was overcome with humiliation, when I thought that his life might have been risked to preserve mine. When we arrived at St. Gingoux, the inhabitants, who stood on the shore, unaccustomed to see a vessel as frail as ours, and fearing to venture at all on such a sea, exchanged looks of wonder and congratulation with our boatmen, who, as well as ourselves, were well pleased to set foot on shore."]
[Footnote 123: In the account of this visit to Copet in his Memoranda, he spoke in high terms of the daughter of his hostess, the present Duchess de Broglie, and, in noticing how much she appeared to be attached to her husband, remarked that "Nothing was more pleasing than to see the developement of the domestic affections in a very young woman." Of Madame de Stael, in that Memoir, he spoke thus:—"Madame de Stael was a good woman at heart and the cleverest at bottom, but spoilt by a wish to be—she knew not what. In her own house she was amiable; in any other person's, you wished her gone, and in her own again."]
[Footnote 124: Upon the same occasion, indeed, he wrote some verses in a spirit not quite so generous, of which a few of the opening lines is all I shall give:—
"And thou wert sad—yet I was not with thee! And thou wert sick—and yet I was not near. Methought that Joy and Health alone could be Where I was not, and pain and sorrow here. And is it thus?—it is as I foretold, And shall be more so:—" &c. &c. ]
* * * * *
"EXTRACT FROM AN UNPUBLISHED POEM.
"Could I remount the river of my years To the first fountain of our smiles and tears, I would not trace again the stream of hours Between their outworn banks of wither'd flowers, But bid it flow as now—until it glides Into the number of the nameless tides. * * * What is this Death?—a quiet of the heart? The whole of that of which we are a part? For Life is but a vision—what I see Of all which lives alone is life to me, And being so—the absent are the dead, Who haunt us from tranquillity, and spread A dreary shroud around us, and invest With sad remembrances our hours of rest. "The absent are the dead—for they are cold, And ne'er can be what once we did behold; And they are changed, and cheerless,—or if yet The unforgotten do not all forget, Since thus divided—equal must it be If the deep barrier be of earth, or sea; It may be both—but one day end it must In the dark union of insensate dust. "The under-earth inhabitants—are they But mingled millions decomposed to clay? The ashes of a thousand ages spread Wherever man has trodden or shall tread? Or do they in their silent cities dwell Each in his incommunicative cell? Or have they their own language? and a sense Of breathless being?—darken'd and intense As midnight in her solitude?—Oh Earth! Where are the past?—and wherefore had they birth? The dead are thy inheritors—and we But bubbles on thy surface; and the key Of thy profundity is in the grave, The ebon portal of thy peopled cave, Where I would walk in spirit, and behold Our elements resolved to things untold, And fathom hidden wonders, and explore The essence of great bosoms now no more." * *
* * * * *
"My sister! my sweet sister! if a name Dearer and purer were, it should be thine. Mountains and seas divide us, but I claim No tears, but tenderness to answer mine: Go where I will, to me thou art the same— A loved regret which I would not resign. There yet are two things in my destiny,— A world to roam through, and a home with thee.
"The first were nothing—had I still the last, It were the haven of my happiness; But other claims and other ties thou hast, And mine is not the wish to make them less. A strange doom is thy father's son's, and past Recalling, as it lies beyond redress; Reversed for him our grandsire's fate of yore,— He had no rest at sea, nor I on shore.
"If my inheritance of storms hath been In other elements, and on the rocks Of perils, overlook'd or unforeseen, I have sustain'd my share of worldly shocks, The fault was mine; nor do I seek to screen My errors with defensive paradox; I have been cunning in mine overthrow, The careful pilot of my proper woe,
"Mine were my faults, and mine be their reward. My whole life was a contest, since the day That gave me being, gave me that which marr'd The gift,—a fate, or will that walk'd astray; And I at times have found the struggle hard, And thought of shaking off my bonds of clay: But now I fain would for a time survive, If but to see what next can well arrive.
"Kingdoms and empires in my little day I have outlived, and yet I am not old; And when I look on this, the petty spray Of my own years of trouble, which have roll'd Like a wild bay of breakers, melts away: Something—I know not what—does still uphold A spirit of slight patience; not in vain, Even for its own sake, do we purchase pain.
"Perhaps the workings of defiance stir Within me,—or perhaps a cold despair, Brought on when ills habitually recur,— Perhaps a kinder clime, or purer air, (For even to this may change of soul refer, And with light armour we may learn to bear,) Have taught me a strange quiet, which was not The chief companion of a calmer lot.
"I feel almost at times as I have felt In happy childhood; trees, and flowers, and brooks, Which do remember me of where I dwelt Ere my young mind was sacrificed to books, Come as of yore upon me, and can melt My heart with recognition of their looks; And even at moments I could think I see Some living thing to love—but none like thee.
"Here are the Alpine landscapes which create A fund for contemplation;—to admire Is a brief feeling of a trivial date; But something worthier do such scenes inspire: Here to be lonely is not desolate, For much I view which I could most desire, And, above all, a lake I can behold Lovelier, not dearer, than our own of old.
"Oh that thou wert but with me!—but I grow The fool of my own wishes, and forget The solitude which I have vaunted so Has lost its praise in this but one regret; There may be others which I less may show;— I am not of the plaintive mood, and yet I feel an ebb in my philosophy, And the tide rising in my alter'd eye.
"I did remind thee of our own dear lake, By the old hall which may be mine no more. Leman's is fair; but think not I forsake The sweet remembrance of a dearer shore: Sad havoc Time must with my memory make Ere that or thou can fade these eyes before; Though, like all things which I have loved, they are Resign'd for ever, or divided far.
"The world is all before me; I but ask Of nature that with which she will comply— It is but in her summer's sun to bask, To mingle with the quiet of her sky, To see her gentle face without a mask, And never gaze on it with apathy. She was my early friend, and now shall be My sister—till I look again on thee.
"I can reduce all feelings but this one; And that I would not;—for at length I see Such scenes as those wherein my life begun. The earliest—even the only paths for me— Had I but sooner learnt the crowd to shun, I had been better than I now can be; The passions which have torn me would have slept; I had not suffer'd, and thou hadst not wept.
"With false ambition what had I to do? Little with love, and least of all with fame; And yet they came unsought, and with me grew, And made me all which they can make—a name. Yet this was not the end I did pursue; Surely I once beheld a nobler aim. But all is over—I am one the more To baffled millions which have gone before.
"And for the future, this world's future may From me demand but little of my care; I have outlived myself by many a day; Having survived so many things that were; My years have been no slumber, but the prey Of ceaseless vigils; for I had the share Of life which might have fill'd a century, Before its fourth in time had pass'd me by.
"And for the remnant which may be to come I am content; and for the past I feel Not thankless,—for within the crowded sum Of struggles, happiness at times would steal, And for the present, I would not benumb My feelings farther.—Nor shall I conceal That with all this I still can look around And worship Nature with a thought profound.
"For thee, my own sweet sister, in thy heart I know myself secure, as thou in mine: We were and are—I am, even as thou art— Beings who ne'er each other can resign; It is the same, together or apart, From life's commencement to its slow decline We are entwined—let death come slow or fast, The tie which bound the first endures the last!"
[Footnote 125: "Admiral Byron was remarkable for never making a voyage without a tempest. He was known to the sailors by the facetious name of 'Foul-weather Jack.'
"But, though it were tempest-tost, Still his bark could not be lost.
He returned safely from the wreck of the Wager (in Anson's Voyage), and subsequently circumnavigated the world, many years after, as commander of a similar expedition."]
[Footnote 126: The lake of Newstead Abbey.]
* * * * *
In the month of August, Mr. M.G. Lewis arrived to pass some time with him; and he was soon after visited by Mr. Richard Sharpe, of whom he makes such honourable mention in the Journal already given, and with whom, as I have heard this gentleman say, it now gave him evident pleasure to converse about their common friends in England. Among those who appeared to have left the strongest impressions of interest and admiration on his mind was (as easily will be believed by all who know this distinguished person) Sir James Mackintosh.
Soon after the arrival of his friends, Mr. Hobhouse and Mr. S. Davies, he set out, as we have seen, with the former on a tour through the Bernese Alps,—after accomplishing which journey, about the beginning of October he took his departure, accompanied by the same gentleman, for Italy.
The first letter of the following series was, it will be seen, written a few days before he left Diodati.
LETTER 247. TO MR. MURRAY.
"Diodati, Oct. 5. 1816.
"Save me a copy of 'Buck's Richard III.' republished by Longman; but do not send out more books, I have too many.
"The 'Monody' is in too many paragraphs, which makes it unintelligible to me; if any one else understands it in the present form, they are wiser; however, as it cannot be rectified till my return, and has been already published, even publish it on in the collection—it will fill up the place of the omitted epistle.
"Strike out 'by request of a friend,' which is sad trash, and must have been done to make it ridiculous.
"Be careful in the printing the stanzas beginning,
"'Though the day of my destiny,' &c.
which I think well of as a composition.
"'The Antiquary' is not the best of the three, but much above all the last twenty years, saving its elder brothers. Holcroft's Memoirs are valuable as showing strength of endurance in the man, which is worth more than all the talent in the world.
"And so you have been publishing 'Margaret of Anjou' and an Assyrian tale, and refusing W.W.'s Waterloo, and the 'Hue and Cry.' I know not which most to admire, your rejections or acceptances. I believe that prose is, after all, the most reputable, for certes, if one could foresee—but I won't go on—that is with this sentence; but poetry is, I fear, incurable. God help me! if I proceed in this scribbling, I shall have frittered away my mind before I am thirty, but it is at times a real relief to me. For the present—good evening."
* * * * *
LETTER 248. TO MR. MURRAY.
"Martigny, October 9. 1816.
"Thus far on my way to Italy. We have just passed the 'Fisse-Vache' (one of the first torrents in Switzerland) in time to view the iris which the sun flings along it before noon.
"I have written to you twice lately. Mr. Davies, I hear, is arrived. He brings the original MS. which you wished to see. Recollect that the printing is to be from that which Mr. Shelley brought; and recollect, also, that the concluding stanzas of Childe Harold (those to my daughter) which I had not made up my mind whether to publish or not when they were first written (as you will see marked on the margin of the first copy), I had (and have) fully determined to publish with the rest of the Canto, as in the copy which you received by Mr. Shelley, before I sent it to England.
"Our weather is very fine, which is more than the summer has been.—At Milan I shall expect to hear from you. Address either to Milan, poste restante, or by way of Geneva, to the care of Monsr. Hentsch, Banquier. I write these few lines in case my other letter should not reach you: I trust one of them will.
"P.S. My best respects and regards to Mr. Gifford. Will you tell him it may perhaps be as well to put a short note to that part relating to Clarens, merely to say, that of course the description does not refer to that particular spot so much as to the command of scenery round it? I do not know that this is necessary, and leave it to Mr. G.'s choice, as my editor,—if he will allow me to call him so at this distance."
* * * * *
LETTER 249. TO MR. MURRAY.
"Milan, October 15. 1816.
"I hear that Mr. Davies has arrived in England,—but that of some letters, &c., committed to his care by Mr. H., only half have been delivered. This intelligence naturally makes me feel a little anxious for mine, and amongst them for the MS., which I wished to have compared with the one sent by me through the hands of Mr. Shelley. I trust that it has arrived safely,—and indeed not less so, that some little crystals, &c., from Mont Blanc, for my daughter and my nieces, have reached their address. Pray have the goodness to ascertain from Mr. Davies that no accident (by custom-house or loss) has befallen them, and satisfy me on this point at your earliest convenience.
"If I recollect rightly, you told me that Mr. Gifford had kindly undertaken to correct the press (at my request) during my absence—at least I hope so. It will add to my many obligations to that gentleman.
"I wrote to you, on my way here, a short note, dated Martigny. Mr. Hobhouse and myself arrived here a few days ago, by the Simplon and Lago Maggiore route. Of course we visited the Borromean Islands, which are fine, but too artificial. The Simplon is magnificent in its nature and its art,—both God and man have done wonders,—to say nothing of the devil who must certainly have had a hand (or a hoof) in some of the rocks and ravines through and over which the works are carried.
"Milan is striking—the cathedral superb. The city altogether reminds me of Seville, but a little inferior. We had heard divers bruits, and took precautions on the road, near the frontier, against some 'many worthy fellows (i.e. felons) that were out,' and had ransacked some preceding travellers, a few weeks ago, near Sesto,—or Cesto, I forget which,—of cash and raiment, besides putting them in bodily fear, and lodging about twenty slugs in the retreating part of a courier belonging to Mr. Hope. But we were not molested, and I do not think in any danger, except of making mistakes in the way of cocking and priming whenever we saw an old house, or an ill-looking thicket, and now and then suspecting the 'true men,' who have very much the appearance of the thieves of other countries. What the thieves may look like, I know not, nor desire to know, for it seems they come upon you in bodies of thirty ('in buckram and Kendal green') at a time, so that voyagers have no great chance. It is something like poor dear Turkey in that respect, but not so good, for there you can have as great a body of rogues to match the regular banditti; but here the gens d'armes are said to be no great things, and as for one's own people, one can't carry them about like Robinson Crusoe with a gun on each shoulder.
"I have been to the Ambrosian library—it is a fine collection—full of MSS. edited and unedited. I enclose you a list of the former recently published: these are matters for your literati. For me, in my simple way, I have been most delighted with a correspondence of letters, all original and amatory, between Lucretia Borgia and Cardinal Bembo, preserved there. I have pored over them and a lock of her hair, the prettiest and fairest imaginable—I never saw fairer—and shall go repeatedly to read the epistles over and over; and if I can obtain some of the hair by fair means, I shall try. I have already persuaded the librarian to promise me copies of the letters, and I hope he will not disappoint me. They are short, but very simple, sweet, and to the purpose; there are some copies of verses in Spanish also by her; the tress of her hair is long, and, as I said before, beautiful. The Brera gallery of paintings has some fine pictures, but nothing of a collection. Of painting I know nothing; but I like a Guercino—a picture of Abraham putting away Hagar and Ishmael—which seems to me natural and goodly. The Flemish school, such as I saw it in Flanders, I utterly detested, despised, and abhorred; it might be painting, but it was not nature; the Italian is pleasing, and their ideal very noble.
"The Italians I have encountered here are very intelligent and agreeable. In a few days I am to meet Monti. By the way, I have just heard an anecdote of Beccaria, who published such admirable things against the punishment of death. As soon as his book was out, his servant (having read it, I presume) stole his watch; and his master, while correcting the press of a second edition, did all he could to have him hanged by way of advertisement.
"I forgot to mention the triumphal arch begun by Napoleon, as a gate to this city. It is unfinished, but the part completed worthy of another age and the same country. The society here is very oddly carried on,—at the theatre, and the theatre only,—which answers to our opera. People meet there as at a rout, but in very small circles. From Milan I shall go to Venice. If you write, write to Geneva, as before—the letter will be forwarded.
* * * * *
LETTER 250. TO MR. MURRAY.
"Milan, November 1. 1816.
"I have recently written to you rather frequently but without any late answer. Mr. Hobhouse and myself set out for Venice in a few days; but you had better still address to me at Mr. Hentsch's, Banquier, Geneva; he will forward your letters.
"I do not know whether I mentioned to you some time ago, that I had parted with the Dr. Polidori a few weeks previous to my leaving Diodati. I know no great harm of him; but he had an alacrity of getting into scrapes, and was too young and heedless; and having enough to attend to in my own concerns, and without time to become his tutor, I thought it much better to give him his conge. He arrived at Milan some weeks before Mr. Hobhouse and myself. About a week ago, in consequence of a quarrel at the theatre with an Austrian officer, in which he was exceedingly in the wrong, he has contrived to get sent out of the territory, and is gone to Florence. I was not present, the pit having been the scene of altercation; but on being sent for from the Cavalier Breme's box, where I was quietly staring at the ballet, I found the man of medicine begirt with grenadiers, arrested by the guard, conveyed into the guard-room, where there was much swearing in several languages. They were going to keep him there for the night; but on my giving my name, and answering for his apparition next morning, he was permitted egress. Next day he had an order from the government to be gone in twenty-four hours, and accordingly gone he is, some days ago. We did what we could for him, but to no purpose; and indeed he brought it upon himself, as far as I could learn, for I was not present at the squabble itself. I believe this is the real state of his case; and I tell it you because I believe things sometimes reach you in England in a false or exaggerated form. We found Milan very polite and hospitable, and have the same hopes of Verona and Venice. I have filled my paper.