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Lord Byron passed his time at Geneva in a very retired manner. Madame de Stael, who was then living at Coppel, had very friendly intentions towards him; but, notwithstanding this feeling, she was the cause of very great pain to him. She interfered in the quarrel between him and Lady Byron; and, as she was not perhaps the fittest person in the world for a mediator, she entirely failed of success. rather inclined to take Lady Byron's side, and this, of course, was highly unpalatable to his lordship, who had by this time so often repeated that he was ' more sinned against than sinning,' that he even believed it himself. He had a mortal hatred against blue-stockings--and who can blame him ? Madame de Stael, perhaps, united in her own persou all the most striking as well as the most disagreeable parts of blue-stockingism. She invited Lord Byron, upon more occasions than one, to her parties, when they were filled with English people, solely for the purpose of showing him up; and once went so far as to read him a long lecture before such a company on the immorality of his life.
If her charges had been true, this method of preferring them would have been sufficiently injudicious on her part and painful to his lordship; but they were in fact mere inventions—some so absurd that no one could really believe them; others so trifling, that, if they had been true, the schooling might have been spared. Lord Byron could not forgive this. He learned, also, that his actions were watched, and that the absurd reports to which the misrepresentations of these people gave rise were all repeated at Madame de Stael's parties; that himself and his supposed vices formed a principal subject of the conversation there; and that they were afterwards magnified and horrified in all possible shapes for the Euglish markets.
Lord Byron took no other vengeance on Madame de Stael, for all the wrongs of which she had been, perhaps, the unwitting occasion, than by saying that if she had talked less she would have written better, and by praising her husband, M. Rocca, of whom Madame de Stael was a little ashamed, though without the slightest reason, and whose name she declined to bear. He was a very sensible man, and Lord Byron said he could say good things in a very agreeable manner. It was he who, when Lord Byron was regretting that the rocks of Meilleirie (rendered, as his lordship thought, sacred, by Rousseau's having com.ected with them the loves of St. Preux and his Julie) had been cut away to make a road, replied that• a good road was better than all the recollections in the world." Perhaps Lord Byron would have been content with this revenge, and
would have continued to pursue his amusement of sailing round the beautiful lake of Geneva. Happy in the society of a very few friends, among whom Mr. Shelley and Mr. Hobhouse were the highest in bis estimation, he might have bid defiance to the little calumnies of Madame de Stael and her gossips, but that he found their lies reached England, and had fouud their way into the newspapers. Foud as he was of notoriety—and he was foud of it to a passion—this was not the sort of fame that he coveted. He learned that the senseless stories were believed as well as circulated, and that he was looked upon as little better thau a very worthless person, who, after trying all modes of extravagance, had settled down into mere indolence aud vice.
No man was more sensitive of the opinion of others than Lord Byrou; and perhaps no man ever took greater pains to conceal this disposition, which he himself knew was a weakness. Upon such a mind, therefore, it may be imagiued that the repetition of the senseless calumnies which had got abroad in England with respect to him acted with an almost torturing effect. He had been living in perfect retirement, and in a most temperate and harmless manner, wheu, on a sudden, he learned that all sorts of crime and dissipation were even then imputed to him. His rage was beyond bounds; and he said, in one of tnose childish transports ivto which he was sometimes betrayed, that his enemies in England should not say, nor should the people of England believe, these things of him without a cause. gave orders for removing from Switzerland, and went to Venice, where he executed his threat by plunging into all the excesses for which that city affords such unlimited opportunities.
LORD Byron's going to Venice was a piece of wanton foolery; but it was such as could hardly be surprising in one who, from youth tu manhood, nad been, in the widest sense of the phrase, an enfant guté.
He threw himself recklessly into all sorts of excesses, and, with the exception of the years immediately preceding his travels into the East, when he was a mad rake upon town, he never gave way to so much profligacy. He gamed, drank, and intrigued, as much at least as any other person in Venice, and this is saying not a little against him.
His reputation had preceded bim, and his fame as a poet had been already sufficiently spread in Italy by means of translations of bis best poems. He was a sort of rage, and particularly with old women of fashion-a race as, profligate as they are disagreeable—and who in Vevice are, if possible, a thousand times worse than in any other place.
Among the many affairs of gallantry in which Lord Byron had the credit of being engaged none made so much noise as that with a woman who was whimsically enough called his Fornarina. An engraving of her is about in England, and is well known, although it has never been published. This woman was a baker's wise, and a perfect specimen of Venetian beauty. Her hair and eyes were black; her complexion pale, but quite clear; her teeth of exquisite whiteness; and the usual expression of her face was of that languid melancholy description which bespeaks an intensely passionate temperament. Lord Byron was not very fond of her: he used to say that he liked to make love—not to be made love to. This woman was very ardently attached to him, and not only insisted upon taking up her abode in his house, but in keeping every other woman out of it. She was inconceivably jealous; and being, besides, as great a vixen as ever lived, her passion sometimes led her to very odd vagaries. Of the lowest order of the Venetians, and possessing sentiments which, however strong, were not much more refined than her language, she used to give herself up to abusing every woman who became an object of her suspicion, and this never in choice Italian.'
One day two English ladies, who were intimate acquaintances of Lord Byron, and who had heard a great deal of this woman—then the town talk, at least among the English residents at Venice—went in their gondola to Lord Byron's palazzo, for the purpose of seeing her. The Fornarina, who was upon the look-out, discovered that the gone dola contained ladies; and met the gondolier, who was landing to inquire whether Lord Byron was at home. She answered bis questions very vehemently—said his lordship was not at home--and that, if he were, he would not wish to be troubled with visitors. She was proceeding in her own peculiar style, which was rather eloquent than polished, and which the English ladies were so fortunate as not to understand, when the gondolier, whose ears were more familiar with the Fornarina's slang, desired her to desist. She, however, was very much disposed to continue, and seemed inclined to pull caps with her supposed rivals, until the gondolier silenced her effectually, and made her retreat into the house, by telling her that one of the ladies was the wife of a gentleman of high diplomatic authority; and the Venetians have always too great an awe of such persons to enter into a contest with them. The Fornarina went into the palazzo, but was by no means convinced that the two ladies did not come with hostile intentions. She believed, and probably remains in the same notion to this day, that they came to cut his lordship out of his own palace, and to carry him off like one of the heroines of Ariosto.
At length her passion became so troublesome that Lord Byron, who was spon sick of having even happiness thrust upon him, resolved to get rid of her, and with no sınall difficulty effected her expulsion from his house. She, however, returned, like the recollection of a 'pleasant vice,' to scourge him, and surprised him one day by running into the room in which he was dining. Finding that he would not listen to her entreaties to be received again, she caught up a knife and swore that she would kill herself before him. However much he was frightened at her threats, he knew that it would be very unwise to let her see bis fear, and he therefore only laughed at her. More enraged than ever at this and yet not mad enough to kill herself—she few into the balcony, and jumped thence into the canal, where the coolness of the water somewhat restored her to her senses. It was not very deep: she was soon taken out, by some of the gondoliers who were passing, and carried home to her husband, where to end this romance as some others end—she lived very happily ever after.
Another adventure of Lord Byron's had like to have brought a more serious termination. In Italy, as in some other places on the Continent, flirtation), dans toute la force du phrase, is quietly permitted with married women ;
young ladies, who have yet to make their fortuues by establishing themselves, must not be approached excepting with serious intentions ;--so different is the interest taken by fathers and brothers for their female relations from that which is selt by husbands for their wives. Lord Byron had been paying civilities to a lady of the former description, and had flattered himself that, by dint of sonuetteering and serenading, he liad made an impression on her, when he was surprised by a visit from a police-officer and a priest, who came to remonstrate with him on the subject.
Lord Byron's disinclination to receive the visits of his countrymen during his stay at Venice has been very absurdly exaggerated and misrepresented. It is true that he has himself been the cause of this in a great measure by the angry note which he published at the end of one of his poems, breathing a contempt for every thing English, which is in itself very foolishi, and which, if it had been really felt, would in all probability, for that very reason, never have been expressed.
He was induced, however, to commit this absurdity by an impertinent observation in a book called Sketches of Italy, the author of wbich said she might have been introduced to Lord Byron, 'but declined the offer, Perhaps, too, the inconvenient intrusion of persons who forced themselves into his house, and went to look at him as they would at any other wonder, had tried and vexed a temper not the most enduring in the world. Every body who has lived on the Continent knows that the behaviour of a large portion of English travellers is not such as would induce many men to claiın or even to acknowledge any connexion with them.
When Lord Byron was properly introduced to persons who had any pretensions to his acquaintance he never failed to treat them with respect, and even cordiality. Even strangers with whom he met accidentally, if they were persons of good breeding and of information, never failed to experience that polite frankness which was fully as much a part of his nature as the habit of his education,
With all his profligacy Lord Byron enjoyed a considerable share of popularity: his sentiments were known to be liberal, and this, of course, recommended bim to the groaning people of this orice free and Aourishing, but now degraded and almost desolate, city. His habits were expensive; he kept many seryants, and behaved with the utmost kindness and liberality to all of them. He was charitable and munificent to a degree rather uncommon; for the parsimony of the English in Venice had created an unfavorable opinion against them among the lower orders of the people. Of the instances of his charily probably many might be collected, but that these things are forgotten when all 11.e evil which such men as Lord Byron do is writ in brass.'
There is one mark of the goodness of his heart and the generosity of bis temper which we could not forgive ourselves if we did not preserve:
• The house of a shoemaker, near his lordship’s residence in St. Samuel, was destroyed by fire. The poor man lost every article belonging to him, and was, with a large family, reduced to a most pitiable condition. Lord Byron, having ascertained the afflicting circumstance of the calamity, ordered a new and superior habitation to be inmediately built for the sufferer, the whole expense of which was borne by his lordship, who also presented the unfortunate tradesman with a sum equal in value to the whole of his lost stock in trade and furniture
Lord Byron was attended during the whole of his stay in Venice by bis servant Fletcher, who seems to have been as faithful and as foolish a servant as ever man bad. This man bad been a shoemaker in the