Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

colour. Think of this, faring over the country in a hot Italian sun!

But the greatest of all the heats was within. Upon seeing Lord Byron, I hardly knew him, Ite was grown so fat; and he was longer in recognizing me, I had grown so thin. He was dressed in a loose nankin jacket and white trowsers, his neckcloth open, and his hair in thin ringlets about his throat; altogether presenting a very different aspect from the compact, energetic, and curlyheaded person, whom I had known in England.

He took me into an inner-room, and introduced me to a young lady in a state of great agitation. Her face was flushed, her eyes lit up, and her hair (which she wore in that fashion) looking as if it streamed in disorder. This was the daughter of Count Gamba, wife of the Cavaliere Guiccioli, since known as Madame, or the Countess, Guiccioli,--all the children of persons of that rank in Italy bearing the title of their parents. The Conte Pietro, her brother, came in presently, also in a state of agitation, and having his arm in a sling. I then learned, that a quarrel having taken place among the servants, the young Count had interfered, and been stabbed.

He was very angry; Madame Guiccioli was more so, and would not hear of the charitable comments of Lord Byron, who was for making light of the matter. Indeed there was a look in the business a little formidable; for, though the stab was not much, the inflictor of it threatened more, and was at that minute keeping watch under the portico with the avowed intention of assaulting the first person that issued forth. I looked, out of window, and met his eye glaring upward, like a tiger. The fellow had a red cap on, like a sans-culotte, and a most sinister aspect, dreary and meagre, a proper caitiff. Thus, it appeared, the house was in a state of blockade; the nobility and gentry of the interior all kept in a state of impossibility by a rascally footman.

How long things had continued in this state I cannot say; but the hour was come when Lord Byron and his friends took their evening ride, and the thing was to be put an end to somehow. Fletcher, the valet, had been despatched for the police, and was not returned. It was wondered, among other things, how I had been suffered to enter the house with impunity. Somebody conceived,

that the man might have taken me for one of the constituted authorities; a compliment which few Englishmen would be anxious to deserve, and which I must disclaim any pretensions to. At length we set out, Madame Guiccioli earnestly entreating “Bairon” to keep back, and all of us waiting to keep in advance of Conte Pietro, who was exasperated. It was a curious moment for a stranger from England. I fancied myself pitched into one of the scenes in “ The Mysteries of Udolpho,' with Montoni and his tumultuous companions. Every thing was new, foreign, and violent. There was the lady, flushed and dishevelled, exclaiming against the scelerato;" the young Count, wounded and threatening; the assassin, waiting for us with his knife; and last, not least, in the novelty, my English friend, metamorphosed, round-looking, and jacketed, trying to damp all this fire with his cool tones, and an air of voluptuous indolence. He had now, however, put on his loose riding-coat of mazarin blue, and his velvet cap, looking more lordly than before, but hardly less foreign. It was an awkward moment for him, not knowing what might happen; but he put a good face on the matter; and as to myself, I was so occupied with the novelty of the scene, that I had not time to be frightened. Forth we issue at the door, all squeezing to have the honour of being the boldest, when a termination is put to the tragedy by the vagabond's throwing himself on a bench, extending his arms, and bursting into tears. His cap was half over his eyes; his face gaunt, ugly, and unshaved; his appearance altogether more squalid and miserable than an Englishman would conceive it possible to find in such an establishment. This blessed figure reclined weeping and wailing, and asking pardon for his offence; and to crown all, he requested Lord Byron to kiss him.

The noble Lord conceived this excess of charity superfluous. He pardoned him, but said he must not think of remaining in his service; and the man continued weep-) ing, and kissing his hand. I was then amused with seeing the footing on which the gentry and their servants stand with each other in Italy, and the good-nature witli which the fiercest exhibitions of anger can be followed up. Conte Pietro, a generous good-humoured fellow, . accepted the man's hand, and shook it with great good

[ocr errors]

will; and Madame Guiccioli, though unable to subside so quickly from her state of indignant exaltation, looked in relenting sort, as if the pitying state of excitement would be just as good as the other. In fine, she concluded by according the man her grace also, seeing my Lord had forgiven him. The man was all penitence and wailing, ) but he was obliged to quit. The police would have

forced him, if he had not been dismissed. He left the ? country, and called in his way on Mr. Shelley, who was shocked at his appearance, and gave him some money out of his very disgust; for he thought nobody would help such a fellow if he did not.

The unpleasant part of the business did not end here. It was, remotely, one of the causes of Lord Byron's leaving Italy; for it increased the awkwardness of his position with the Tuscan Government, and gave a farther unsteadiness to his restless temper. His friends, the Gambas, who all lived with him, father as well as children, were already only upon sufferance in Tuscany. They had been expelled their native country, Romagna, for practices with the Carbonari; and Lord Byron, who identified himself with their fortunes, became a party to their wanderings, and to the footing on which they stood wherever they were permitted to abide. The Grandduke's government had given him to understand, that they were at liberty to reside in Tuscany, provided as little was heard of them as possible. The fracas that happened in the street of Pisa, a little before I came, had given a shock to the tranquillity of this good understanding, Count Gamba's.retinue having been the most violent persons concerned in it; and now, another of his men having caused a second disturbance, the distrust was completed. Lord Byron's residence in Tuscany was made uneasy to him. It was desired, that he should separate himself from the Gambas: and though I believe, that even at that time, he would have been glad to do so; and though, on the other hand, it was understood that a little courtesy on his part towards the Grand-duke and Duchess, the latter of whom was said to be particularly desirous of seeing him at Court, would have given him a carte-blanche for all parties, yet his pride in that instance, and his usual tendency to be led by those about him in the other, prevented his taking either of these

steps; and he returned to his house at Pisa; only to reside there two or three months longer, when he departed for Genoa.

Having settled our friend, the lachrymose ruffian, we took our drive in the barouche, in the course of which we met the police-officer, and my old acquaintance Fletcher, with his good humoured, lack-a-daisaical face. Fletcher was for being legitimate, and having his wife out to Italy. I had made an offer to the lady to bring her with us by sea, which she politely declined; doubtless, out of fear of the water: but I brought him a box full of goods, which consoled him a little. I fear I am getting a little gossiping here, beyond the record; such is the contamination of these personal histories; but Fletcher, having by nature an honest English face, the round simplicity of which no sophistication had yet succeeded in ruining, ladies of various ranks in Italy, Venitian countesses, and English cook-maids, had a trick of taking a liking to it; and the presence of Mrs. Fletcher might afterwards have saved me some trouble. This, however, is a bold conjecture. Perhaps it might have been worse. O Beaumont! hadst thou been living in the times of this the namesake of thy fellow-dramatist-but I am told here, that my apostrophes will be getting scandalous.

I returned to Leghorn; and, taking leave of our vessel, we put up ata hotel. Mr. Shelley then came to us from his villeggiatura at Lerici. His town abode, as well as Lord Byron's, was at Pisa. I will not dwell upon the moment. We talked of a thousand things, past, present, and to come. He was the same as ever, with the exception of less hope. He could not be otherwise. But he prepared me to find others not exactly what I had taken them for. I little thought at the time, how much reason I should have to remember his words.

Leghorn is a polite Wapping, with a square and a theatre. The country around is uninteresting, when you become acquainted with it; but to a stranger, the realization of any thing he has read about it is a delight, especially of such things as vines hanging from trees, and the sight of Apennines.

Mr. Shelley accompanied us from Leghorn to Pisa, in order to see us fixed in our new abode. Lord Byron left Monte-Nero at the same time, and joined us.

We occu

pied the ground floor of his Lordship's house, the Cassa Lanfranchi, on the Lung'Arno. The remainder was inhabited by himself and the Gambas; but the father and son were then absent. Divided tenancies of this kind are common in Italy, where few houses are in possession of one family. It has been said that Lord Byron portioned off a part of his own dwelling, handsomely fitted it up for us, and heaped on us in this, as in other matters, a variety of benefactions. In the course of my narrative I must qualify those agreeable fictions. In the first place, Lord Byron had never made use of the ground-floor. Formerly, it was not the custom to do so in great mansions, the splendour of the abode commencing up-stairs: nor is it now, where the house is occupied by only one family, and there is room for them without it; unless they descend for coolness in summer-time. Of late years, especially, since the English have recommenced their visits, it is permitted to parlours to be respectable. In country"houses of a modern standing, I have seen them converted into the best part of the dwelling; but the old mansions were constructed to a different end; the retainers of the family, or the youngest branches, if it was very large, being the only persons who could with propriety live so near their mother earth. The grated windows that are seen in the ground-floors of most private houses in Italy, have survived the old periods of trouble that occasioned them; and it is doubtless to those periods that we must refer for the plebeianism of parlours.

The Casa Lanfranchi is said to have been built by Michael Angelo, and is worthy of him. It is in a bold and broad style throughout, with those harmonious graces of proportion which are sure to be found in an Italian mansion. The outside is of rough marble. Lower down the Lung'Arno, on the same side of the way, is a mansion cased with polished marble. But I have written of these matters in another work. The furniture of our apartments was good and respectable, but of the plainest and cheapest description, consistent with that character. It was chosen by Mr. Shelley, who intended to beg my acceptance of it, and who knew, situated as he and I were, that in putting about us such furniture as he used himself, he could not pay us a handsomer or more welcome compliment. When the apartments were fitted

« НазадПродовжити »