Marguerite Blessington.

Conversations of Lord Byron with the Countess of Blessington online

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Secanli lEtfitton.



Wo flu das Gfiiiie erblickst
Erblickst du auch zngleich die Marterkroiie.




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The deep and general interest with wliicli
every detail connected with Lord Byron
has been received by the public, induced
the writer to publish her Conversations
with him. She was for a long time un-
decided as to adopting this measure, fear-
ful that, by the invidious, it might be
considered as a breach of confidence ; but
as Boswell's and Mrs. Piozzi's disclosures,
relative to Dr. Johnson, w^ere never viewed
in this light, and as Lord Byron never


gave^ or implied, tlie slightest injunction
to secrecy, she hopes tliat she may equally
escape such an imputation.

The many pages suppressed, filled with
poems, epigrams, and sallies of Lord Byron,
in which piquancy and wit are more evi-
dent than good-nature, bear testimony, that
a wish to avoid wounding the feelings of
the living, or to cast a darker shade over
the reputation of the dead, has influenced
the writer much more than the desire to
make an amusing book ; and she trusts,
that in portraying Lord Byron, if she has
proved herself an unskilful, she incurs not
the censure of being considered an unfaith-
ful, limner.


^'" J^i"


y®iEiE> mir m,<S) N .

PuUi shed for Ji. Colt TiTii by R.Bejitly D cc'. 2""* J655

/hj7/e^ fy ^rtLfJ^ OW-»f





Wo du das Genie erbilickst
Erbilickst du auch zugleich die Marteikrone.


''^ OF THE


o*^ ^ Ge)ioa, April 1st, 1823.

Saw Lord Byron for the first time. The im-
pression of the first few minutes disappointed me,
as I had, both from the portraits and descriptions
given, conceived a different idea of him. I had
fancied him taller, v^ith a more dignified and
commanding air; and I looked in vain for the
hero-looking sort of person with whom I had so
long identified him in imagination. His appear-
ance is, however, highly prepossessing; his head



is finely shaped, and the forehead open, high, and
noble ; his eyes are grey and full of expression,
but one is visibly larger than the other ; the nose
is large and well shaped, but from being a little
too thick, it looks better in profile than in front-
face : his mouth is the most remarkable feature in
his face, the upper lip of Grecian shortness, and
the corners descending ; the lips full, and finely
cut. In speaking, he shows his teeth very much,
and they are white and even ; but I observed that J
even in his smile — and he smiles frequently —
there is something of a scornful expression in his
mouth that is evidently natural, and not, as many
suppose, affected. This particularly struck me.
His chin is large and well shaped, and finishes
well the oval of his face. , He is extremely thin,
indeed so much so that his figure has almost a
boyish air ; his face is peculiarly pale, but not j
the paleness of ill-health, as its character is that
of fairness, the fairness of a dark-haired person —
and his hair (which is getting rapidly grey) is of
a very dark brown, and curls naturally : he uses
a good deal of oil in it, which makes it look still
darker. His countenance is full of expression.


and changes with the subject of conversation ; it
gains on the beholder the more it is seen, and
leaves an agreeable impression. 1 should say
that melancholy was its prevailing character, as I
observed that when any observation elicited a
smile — and they were many, as the conversation
was gay and playful — it appeared to linger but
for a moment on his lip, which instantly resumed
its former expression of seriousness. His whole
appearance is remarkably gentlemanlike, and he
owes nothing of this to his toilet, as his coat
appears to have been many years made, is much
too large — and all his garments convey the idea
of having been purchased ready-made, so ill do
they fit him. There is a gaucherie in his move-
ments, which evidently proceeds from the per-
petual consciousness of his lameness, that appears
to haunt him ; for he tries to conceal his foot
when seated, and when walking, has a nervous
rapidity in his manner. He is very slightly
lame, and the deformity of his foot is so little
remarkable that I am not now aware which foot
it is. His voice and accent are peculiarly agree-
able, but effeminate — clear, harmonious, and so


distinct, that though his general tone in speaking
is rather low than liigh, not a word is lost. His
manners are as unlike my preconceived notions of
them as is his appearance. I had expected to
find him a dignified, cold, reserved, and haughty
person, resembling those mysterious personages
he so loves to paint in his works, and with whom
he has been so often identified by the good-
natured world : but nothing can be more dif-
ferent ; for were I to point out the prominent
defect of Lord Byron, I should say it was flip-
pancy, and a total want of that natural self-pos-
session and dignity which ought to characterise a
man of birth and education.
y Albaro, the village in which the Casa Saluzzo,
where he lives, is situated, is about a mile and a
half distant from Genoa ; it is a fine old palazzo,
commanding an extensive view, and with spacious
apartments, the front looking into a court-yard
and the back into the garden. The room in which
Lord Byron received us was large, and plainly
furnished. A small portrait of his daughter Ada,
with an engraved portrait of himself, taken from
one of his works, struck my eye. Observing that


I remarked that of his daughter, he took it down,
and seemed much gratified when I discovered
the strong resemblance it bore to him. Whilst
holding it in his hand, he said, " I am told she is
clever — I hope not ; and, above all, I hope she is
not poetical : the price paid for such advantages,
if advantages they be, is such as to make me pray
that my child may escape them."

The conversation during our first interview was
chiefly about our mutual English friends, some of
whom he spoke of with kind interest. T. Moore,
D. Kinnaird, and Mr. E. Ellice were among those
whom he most distinguished. He expressed
himself greatly annoyed by the number of travel-
ling English who pestered him with visits, the
greater part of whom he had never known, or was
but slightly acquainted with, which obliged him
to refuse receiving any but those he particularly
wished to see : " But," added he, smiling, " they
avenge themselves by attacking me in every sort
of way, and there is no story too improbable
for the craving appetites of our slander-loving

Before taking leave, he proposed paying us a


visit next day ; and he handed me into the
carriage with many flattering expressions of the
pleasure our visit had procured him.

April 2nd. — We had scarcely finished our de-
jeunc a la fourchette this day when Lord Byron
was announced : he sent up two printed cards,
in an envelope addressed to us, and soon followed
them. He appeared still more gay and cheerful
than the day before— made various inquiries
about all our mutual friends in England — spoke
of them with affectionate interest, mixed with a
badinage in which none of their little defects were
spared ; indeed candour obliges me to own that
their defects seemed to have made a deeper
impression on his mind than their good qualities
(though he allowed all the latter), by the gusto
with which he entered into them.

He talked of our mutual friend Moore, and of
his " Lalla Rookh," which he said, though very
beautiful, had disappointed him, adding, that
Moore would go down to posterity by his
Melodies, which were all perfect. He said that
he had never been so much affected as on hearing


Moore sing some of them, particularly " When
first I met Thee," which, he said, made him shed
tears: "But," added he, with a look full of
archness, " it was after I had drunk a certain j
portion of very potent white brandy." As he
laid a peculiar stress on the word affected, I
smiled, and the sequel of the white brandy made
me smile again : he asked me the cause, and I
answered that his observation reminded me of
the story of a lady offering her condolence to a
poor Irishwoman on the death of her child, who
stated that she had never been more affected
than on the event : the poor woman, knowing
the hollowness of the compliment, answered,
with all the quickness of her country, " Sure,
then, ma'am, that is saying a great deal, for you
were always affected." Lord Byron laughed,
and said my apropos was very wicked ; but I
maintained it was very just. He spoke much
more warmly of Moore's social attractions as a
companion, which he said were unrivalled, than
of his merits as a poet.

He offered to be our cicerone in pointing out
all the pretty drives and rides about Genoa;


recommended riding as the only means of seeing'
the country, many of the fine points of view
being inaccessible, except on horseback ; and he
praised Genoa on account of the rare advantage
it possessed of having so few English, either as
inhabitants or birds of passage.

I was this day again struck by the flippancy
of his manner of talking of persons for whom I
know he expresses, nay, for whom I believe he
feels a regard. Something of this must have
shown itself in my manner, for he laughingly
observed that he was afraid he should lose my
good opinion by his frankness ; but that when
the fit was on him he Could not help saying what
he thought, though he often repented it when too

He talked of Mr. , from whom he had

received a visit the day before, praised his looks,
and the insinuating gentleness of his manners,
which, he observed, lent a peculiar charm to the
little tales he repeated : he said that he had
given him more London scandal than he had
heard since he left England ; observed that he
had quite talent enough to render his malice very


jjiquant and amusing, and that his imitations
were admirable. " How can his mother do
without him?" said Byron ; " with his e^ipi^o/me t\on
and mahee, he must be an invaluable coadjutor;
and Venus without Cupid could not be more
delaissee than Miladij — — without this her
legitimate son."

He said that he had formerly felt very partial

to Mr. ; his face was so handsome, and

his countenance so ingenuous, that it was im-
possible not to be prepossessed in his favour;
added to which, one hoped that the son of such a
father could never entirely degenerate : "he has'
however, degenerated sadly," said Byron, " but
as he is yet young he may improve ; though, to
see a person of his age and sex so devoted to
gossip and scandal, is rather discouraging to those
who are interested in his welfare."

He talked of Lord ; praised his urbanity,

his talents, and acquirements ; but, above all, his
sweetness of temper and good-nature. ** Indeed

I do love Lord ," said Byron, "though the

pity I feel for his domestic thraldom has some-
thing in it akin to contempt. Poor dear man ! he


is sadly bullied by JMiladi/ ; and, what is worst
of all, half her tyranny is used on the plea of
kindness and taking care of his health. Hang
such kindness! say I. She is certainly the most
imperious, dictatorial person I know — is always
en 7'ci?ie ; which, by the by, in her peculiar
position, shows tact, for she suspects that were
she to quit the throne she might be driven to the
antichamber ; however, with all her faults, she is
not vindictive — as a proof, she never extended her
favour to me until after the little episode re-
specting her in * English Bards ; ' nay more, I
suspect I owe her friendship to it. Rogers
persuaded me to suppress the passage in the

other editions. After all, Lady has one

merit, and a great one in my eyes, which is, that
in this age of cant and humbug, and in a country
— I mean our own dear England — where the cant
of Virtue is the order of the day, she has con-
trived, without any great resemblance of it,
merely by force of — shall I call it impudence or
courage? — not only to get herself into society,
but absolutely to give the law to her own circle.
She passes, also, for being clever; this, perhaps


owing to my dulness, I never discovered, except
that she has a way, en rehie, of asking questions
that show some reading. The first dispute I
ever had with Lady Byron was caused by my

urging her to visit Lady ; and, what is odd

enough," laughing with bitterness, '* our first and
last difference was caused by two very worthless

Observing that we appeared surprised at the
extraordinary frankness, to call it by no harsher
name, with which he talked of his ci-devant
friends, he added : — " Don't think the worse of
me for what I have said : the truth is, I have wit-
nessed such gross selfishness and want of feeling

in Lady , that I cannot resist speaking my

sentiments of her." — I observed : " But are you
not afraid she will hear what you say of her ? " —
He answered : — "■ Were she to hear it, she would
act the aimable, as she always does to those who
attack her ; while to those who are attentive, and
court her, she is insolent beyond bearing."

Having sat with us above two hours, and ex-
pressed his wishes that we might prolong our stay
at Genoa, he promised to dine with us the fol-


lowing- Thursday, and took his leave, laughingly
apologizing for the length of his visit, adding, that
he was such a recluse, and had lived so long out
of tlie world, that he had quite forgotten the
usages of it.

He on all occasions professes a detestation of
what he calls caiit ; says it will banish from
England all that is pure and good ; and that
while people are looking after the shadow, they
lose the substance of goodness ; he says, that the
best mode left for conquering it, is to expose
it to ridicule, the only iveapon, added he, that the
English climate cannot rust. He appears to
know every thing that is going on in England ;
takes a great interest in the London gossip ; and
while professing to read no new publications,
betrays, in various ways, a perfect knowledge of
every new work.

" April 2ik1, 1823.

'' I send you to-day's (the latest) Galignani.
My banker tells me, however, that his letters
from Spain state, that two regiments have re-


volted, which is a great vex, as they say in
Ireland. I shall be very glad to see your friend's
journal. He seems to have all the qualities
requisite to have figured in his brother-in-law's
ancestor's Memoirs. I did not think him old
enough to have served in Spain, and must have
expressed myself badly. On the contrary, he
has all the air of a Cupidon dechaine, and promises
to have it for some time to come. I beg to pre-
sent my respects to Lady B , and ever am

your obliged and faithful servant,

'* Noel Byron."

When Lord Byron came to dine with us on
Thursday, he arrived an hour before the usual
time, and appeared in good spirits. He said that
he found the passages and stairs filled with peo-
'ple, who stared at him very much ; but he did
not seem vexed at this homage, for so it certainly
was meant, as the Albergo della Villa, where we
resided, being filled with English, all were cu-
rious to see their distinguished countryman. He
was very gay at dinner, ate of most of the dishes,
expressed pleasure at partaking of a plum pud-


ding, () fAuglaise, made by one of our English
servants ; was helped twice, and observed, that he
hoped he should not shock us by eating so much :
** But," added he, " the truth is, that for several
months I have been following a most abstemious
regime, living almost entirely on vegetables ; and
now that I see a good dinner, I cannot resist
temptation, though to-morrow I shall suffer for
my gourmandise, as I always do when I indulge
in luxuries." He drank a few glasses of cham-
pagne, saying, that as he considered it a joz/r de
fete, he would eat, drink, and be merry.

He talked of Mr. , who was then our

Minister at Genoa. "H ," said he, "is a

thorough good-natured and hospitable man, keeps
an excellent table, and is as fond of good things
as I am, but has not my forbearance. I re-
ceived, some time ago, a jjdte de Perigord, and
finding it excellent, I determined on sharing it

with H ; but here my natural selfishness

suggested that it would be wiser for me, who had
so few dainties, to keep this for myself, than to

give it to H , who had so many." After half

an hour's debate between selfishness and gene-


rosity, which do you think " (turning to me)
** carried the point ?" — I answered, ** Generosity,
of course." — " No, by Jove ! " said he, " no such
thing ; selfishness in this case, as in most others,

triumphed : I sent thejo^^t' to my friend H ,

because I felt another dinner off it would play the
deuce with me ; and so you see, after all, he owed
the pate more to selfishness than generosity."
Seeing us smile at this, he said; — ''When you
know me better, you will find that I am the most
selfish person in the world ; I have, however, the
merit, if it be one, of not only being perfectly
conscious of my faults, but of never denying
them ; and this surely is something, in this age of
cant and hopocrisy."

The journal to which Lord Byron refers was
written by one of our party, and Lord Byron,
having discovered its existence, and expressed a
desire to peruse it, the writer confided it to

' See Moore's Life, vol. ii. p. G8(>, 4to edition. Here also
follow several letters in Moore's Byron.


" April 1 nil, l»-2:J.

*' I was not in the way when your note came.
I have only time to thank you, and to send the
Galignani's. My face is better in fact, but worse
in appearance, with a very scurvy aspect ; but I
expect it to be well in a day or two. I will sub-
scribe to the Improving Society.

" Yours in haste, but ever,

" Noel Birox."

" April 22nd, 1823.

** I received your billet at dinner, which was a
good one — with a sprinkling of female foreigners,
who, I dare say, were very agreeable. As I have
formed a sullen resolution about presentations,
which I never break (above once a month), I
begged to dispense me from being intro-
duced, and intrigued for myself a place as far
remote as possible from his fair guests, and very
near a bottle of the best wine to confirm my
misogyny. After coffee, I had accomplished my
retreat as far as the hall, on full tilt towards your


tlic, which I was very eager to partake of, wlieii

I was arrested by requesting that I would

make my bow to the French Ambassadress, who
it seems is a Dillon, Irish, but born or bred in
America ; has been pretty, and is a blue, and of
course entitled to the homage of all persons who
have been printed. I returned, and it was then

too late to detain Miss P over the tea-urn. I

beg you to accept my regrets, and present my

regards to Milady, and Miss P , and Comte

Alfred, and believe me ever yours,

'' Noel Byron."

«' April 23rd, 1823.

** I thank you for quizzing me and my ' learned
Thebans.' I assure you, my notions on that score
are limited to getting away with a whole skin, or
sleeping quietly with a broken one, in some of my
old Glens where I used to dream in my former
excursions. I should prefer a grey Greek stone
over me to Westminster Abbey ; but I doubt if I
shall have the luck to die so happily. A lease of


my ' body's length ' is all the land which I sliould
covet in that quarter.

" What the Honourable Dug ' and his Com-
mittee may decide, I do not know, and still less
what I may decide (for I am not famous for deci-
sion) for myself; but if I could do any good in
any way, I should be happy to contribute thereto,
and without ec/at. I have seen enough of that in
my time, to rate it at its value, I wish i/oii were
upon that Committee, for I think you would set
them going one way or the other ; at present they
seem a little dormant. I dare not venture to dh?e
with you to-morrow, nor indeed any day this
week ; for three days of dinners during the last
seven days, have made me so head-achy and
sulky, that it will take me a whole Lent to sub-
side again into anything like, independence of sen-
sation from the pressure of materialism. * *
* * But I shall take my chance of finding
you the first fair morning for a visit. Ever


" Noel ByroiV."

' His abritlgment for Douglas Kinnaird.


" May 7tli, 1823.

" I return the poesy, which will form a new
light to lighten the Irish, and will, I hope, be duly-
appreciated by the public. I have not returned
MilecWs verses, because I am not aware of the
error she mentions, and see no reason for the
alteration ; however, if she insists, I must be con-
formable. I write in haste, having a visitor.

'* Ever yours, very truly,

*' Noel Byrox."

" May 1 4th, 1823.

" I avize you that the Reading Association
have received numbers of English publications,
which you may like to see, and as you are a
Member should avail yourself of early. I have
just returned my share before its time, having
kept the books one day instead oi Jive, which
latter is the utmost allowance. The rules obliered

me to forward it to a Monsieur G , as next in

rotation. If you have anything for England, a
gentleman with some law papers of mine returns


there to-morrow (Thursday), and would be ha])py
to convey anything- for j'ou. Ever yours, and

" Noel Byron.

" P. S. I request you to present my com-
pliments to Lady Blessington, Miss Power, and
Comte D'Orsay."

" May iSrd, 1823.

" I thought that I had answered your note. I
ought, and beg j'ou to excuse the omission. I
should have called, but I thought my chance of
finding you at home in the environs, greater than
at the hotel. * * * * *

I hope you will not take my not dining with you
again after so many dinners, ill ; but the truth is,
that your banquets are too luxurious for my
habits, and 1 feel the effect of them in this warm
weather for some time after. I am sure you will
not be angry, since I have already more than
sufficiently abused your hospitality. * *

* * I fear that I can hardly afford more


^^than two thousand francs for the steed in question,
as I have to undergo considerable expenses at
this present time, and I suppose that will not suit
you. I must not forget to pay my Irish Sub-
scription. My remembrances to JMilecU, and to

Alfred, and to Miss P . Ever yours,

" Noel Byron."

" May 2ith, 18*23.

*' I find that I was elected a Member of the
Greek Committee in March, but did not receive
the Chairman's notice till yesterday, and this by
mere chance, and through a private hand. I am
doing all I can to get away, and the Committee
and my friends in England seem both to approve
ofmy going up into Greece; but I meet here with
obstacles, which have hampered and put me out
of spirits, and still keep me in a vexatious state
of uncertainty. I began bathing the other day,
but the water was still chilly, and in diving for
a Genoese lira in clear but deep water, I imbibed
so much water through my ears, as gave me a

22 .( c) r K X A r. o v c o \ \- k h s a t i o x s

megrim iu my head, which \oii will prubably
think a superfluous malady.

" Ever yours, obliged and truly,

" Noel Byron."

In all his conversations relative to Lady Byron,
and they are frequent, he declares that he is
totally unconscious of the cause of her leaving
him, but suspects that the ill-natured interposition
of Mrs. Charlemont led to it. It is a strange
business ! He declares that he left no means
untried to effect a reconciliation, and always adds
wMth bitterness, " A day will arrive when I shall
be avenged. I feel that I shall not live long, and

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Online LibraryMarguerite BlessingtonConversations of Lord Byron with the Countess of Blessington → online text (page 1 of 20)