Lord Byron in Italy

The ‘Life, Letters, and Journals of Lord Byron edited by Thomas Moore provides us with a fascinating view of the man in his travels.  It was Thursday 4th January 1821 and he was in the Papal State of Ravenna in Italy and records:

’A sudden thought strikes me.’  Let me begin a Journal once more.  The last I kept was in Switzerland, in record of a tour made in the Bernese Alps, which I made to send to my sister in 1816, and I suppose that she has it still, for she wrote to me that she was pleased with it. Another, and longer, I kept in 1813-1814, which I gave to Thomas Moore in the same year.

“This morning I gat [sic] me up late, as usual – weather bad – bad as England – worse. The snow of last week (is) melting in the sirocco of to-day, so that there were two d—-d things at once; could not even get to ride on horseback in the forest. Stayed at home all the morning – looked at the fire – wondered when the post would come. Post came at the Ave Maria, instead of half-past one o’clock, as it ought. Galignani’s Messengers, six in number – a letter from Faenza, but none from England. Very sulky in consequence (for there ought to have been letters), and ate in consequence a copious dinner; for when I am vexed, it makes me swallow quicker – but drank very little.

‘I was out of spirits – read the papers – thought what fame was, on reading, in a case of murder, that Mr Wych, grocer of Tunbridge, sold some bacon, flour, cheese, and, it is believed, some plums, to some gypsy woman accused. He had on his counter (I quote faithfully) ‘a book, the Life of Pamela, which he was tearing for waste paper, etc, etc. In the cheese was found, etc, and a leaf of Pamela wrapt round the bacon.’  What would Richardson, the vainest and luckiest of living authors (i.e. while alive) – he, who with Aaron Hill, used to prophesy and chuckle over the presumed fall of Fielding (the prose Homer of human nature) and of Pope (the most beautiful of poets) – what would he have said, could he have traced his pages from their place on the French prince’s toilets (see Boswell’s Johnson) to the grocer’s counter and the gypsy-murderess’s bacon!!!”

“What would he have said? What can anybody say, save what Solomon said long before us? After all, it is but passing from one counter to another, from the bookseller’s to the other tradesman’s – grocer or pastry-cook. For my part, I have met with most poetry upon trunks; so that I am apt to consider the trunk-maker as the sexton of authorship.

He finishes with:

“Wrote five letters in about half an hour, short and savage, to all my rascally correspondents’.


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