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up, Lord Byron insisted upon making us a present of the goods himself. Mr. Shelley did not choose to contest the point. He explained the circumstance to me; and this is the amount of the splendour with which some persons have been pleased to surround me at his Lordship’s expense. I will here mention what I have happened to omit respecting another and greater matter. Two hundred pounds were sent me from Italy, to enable me to leave England with comfort. They came from Lord Byron, and nothing was said to me of security, or any thing like it. Lord Byron had offered a year or two before, through Mr. Shelley, to send me four hundred pounds for a similar purpose, which offer I declined. I now accepted the two hundred pounds; but I found afterwards that his Lordship had had a bond for the money from Mr. Shelley. I make no comment on these things. I merely state the truth, because others have mis-stated it, and because I begin to be sick of maintaining a silence, which does no good to others, and is only turned against one's self.
We had not been in the house above an hour or two, when my friend brought the celebrated surgeon, Vacca, to see Mrs. Hunt. He had a pleasing intelligent face, and was the most gentleman-like Italian I ever saw. Vacca pronounced his patient to be in a decline; and little hope was given us by others that she would survive beyond the year. She is now alive, and likely to live many years; and Vacca is dead. I do not say this to his disparagement; for he was very skilful, and deserved his celebrity. But it appears to me, from more than one remarkable instance, that there is a superstition about what are called declines and consumptions, from which the most eminent of the profession are not free. I suspect, that people of this tendency, with a proper mode of living, may reach to as good a period of existence as any other. The great secret in this as in all other cases, and indeed in almost all moral as well as physical cases of ill, is in diet. If some demi-god could regulate for mankind what they should eat and drink, he would put an end, at one stroke, to half the troubles which the world undergo, some of the most romantic sorrows with which they flatter themselves not excepted. It is by not exceeding in this point, and by keeping natural hours, that such nations as the Persians are enabled to be cheerful, even under a load of despotism; while others, among the freest on earth, are proverbial for spleen and melancholy. Our countrymen, manly as they are, effeminately bewail the same climate, which the gypsy, with his ruddy cheek, laughs at. But one change is linked with another; there must be more leisure and other comforts to stand people instead of these ticklings and crammings of their despair; and the vanity of old patchwork endurance is loth to see any thing but vanity in the work of reformation.
The next day, while in the drawing-room with Lord Byron, I had a curious specimen of Italian manners. It was like a scene in an opera. One of his servants, a young man, suddenly came in smiling, and was followed by his sister, a handsome brunette, in a bodice and sleeves, and her own hair. She advanced to his Lordship to welcome him back to Pisa, and present him with a basket of flowers. In doing this, she took his hand and kissed it; then turned to the stranger, and kissed his hand also. I thought it a very becoming, unbecoming action; and that at least it should have been acknowledged by a kiss of another description; and the girl appeared to be of the same opinion, at least with regard to one of us, who stood blushing and looking in her eyes, and not knowing well what to be at. I thought we ought to have struck up a quartett. But there might have ensued a quintett, not so harmonious; and the scene was hastily concluded.
It is the custom in Italy, as it was in England, for inferiors to kiss your hand in coming and going. There is an air of good will in it that is agreeable; but the implied sense of inferiority is not so pleasant. Servants have a better custom of wishing you a good evening when they bring in lights. To this you may respond in like manner; after which it seems impossible for the sun to “go down on the wrath,” if there is any of either party.
In a day or two Mr. Shelley took leave of us to return to Lerici for the rest of the season, meaning however to see us more than once in the interval. I spent one delightful afternoon with him, wandering about Pisa, and visiting the cathedral. On the night of the same day, he took a post-chaise for Leghorn, intending next morning to sign his will in that city, and then depart with his
friend Captain Williams for Lerici. I earnestly entreated him, if the weather was violent, not to give way to his daring spirit and venture to sea. He promised me he would not; and it seems that he did set off later than he otherwise would have done, and apparently at a more favourable moment. I never beheld him more. The superstitious might discern something strange in that connexion of his last will and testament with his departure; but the will, it seems, was not to be found.
The same night there was a tremendous storm of thunder and lightning, which made us very anxious; but we hoped our friend had arrived before then. When Mr. Trelawney came to Pisa, and told us he was missing, I underwent one of the sensations which we read of in books, but seldom experience; I was tongue-tied with horror. The rest is told in another part of the work; and I may be spared dwelling on the subject. From that time Italy was a black place to me.
Lord Byron requested me to look upon him as standing in Mr. Shelley's place, and said that I should find him the same friend that the other had been. My heart died within me to hear him; I made the proper acknowledgment; but I knew what he meant, and I more than doubted whether even in that, the most trivial part of friendship, he could resemble Mr. Shelley if he would. Circumstances unfortunately rendered the matter of too much importance to me at the moment. I had reason to fear:--I was compelled to try:—and things turned out as I dreaded. The public have been given to understand that Lord Byron's purse was at my command, and that I used it according to the spirit with which it was offered. I did so. Stern necessity, and a large family, compelled me; and during our residence at Pisa, I had from him, or rather from his steward, to whom he always sent me for the money, and who doled it me out as if my disgraces were being counted, the sum of seventy pounds. This sum, together with the payment of our expenses when we accompanied him from Pisa to Genoa, and thirty pounds with which he enabled us subsequently to go from Genoa to Florence, was all the money I ever received from Lord Byron, exclusive of the two hundred pounds in the first instance, which he made a debt of Mr. Shelley's by taking his bond. I have some peculiar notions
on the subject of money, as the reader will see more fully. They will be found to involve considerable difference of opinion with the community in a state of things like the present, particularly in a commercial country, and many may think me as deficient in spirit on that point, as I think them mistaken in their notions of what spirit is, and mistakenly educated. I may be wrong (as people say when they think themselves in the right;) but in the mean time, judging even by what they themselves think of the little happiness and disinterestedness that is to be found in the present state of things, I am sure they are not right; and that the system of mere bustle and competition ends in little good to any body. I can see an improvement in it ultimately, when the vicissitude comes which every body attributes to the nature of human society, and which nobody seems to believe in with regard to their own customs:—but I shall be digressing too far. Among other things, in which I differ in point of theory (for in practice I am bound to say that of late, though for other reasons, I have totally altered in this particular,) I have not had that horror of being under obligation, which is thought an essential refinement in money matters, and which leads some really generous persons, as well as some who only seek personal importance in their generosity, to think they have a right to bestow favours which they would be mortified to receive. But at the same time in this as in every thing else, “the same is not the same.” Men and modes make a difference: and I must say two things for myself, for which every body may give me credit, who deserves credit himself; first, that although (to my great sorrow and repentance) I have not been careful enough to enable myself to be generous in this respect towards others, in any degree worth speaking of, nor even (with shame I say it) just to my own children (though I trust to outlive that culpability,) yet I have never refused to share my last sixpence (no idle phrase in this instance) with any friend who was in want of it; and second that although it has been a delight to me to receive hundreds from some, I could not receive without anguish as many pence from others; nor should I ever, by any chance, have applied to them, but for a combination of circumstances that mixed me up with them at the moment. I do not mean to say that Lord By
ron was above receiving obligations. I know not how it might have been with respect to large ones, and before all the world. Perhaps he was never reduced to the necessity of making the experiment. But he could receive some very strange and small ones, such as made people wonder over their wine; and he could put himself to, at least, a disadvantage in larger matters, usually supposed to be reciprocal, which made them wonder still
If I am thought here to touch upon very private and delicate things, especially regarding a person who is no more, I must offer three more remarks to the consideration of those, and those only, whom I have just appealed to; I mean, such as being speakers of truth themselves, have an instinct in discovering those that resemble them. The first is, that Lord Byron made no scruple of talking very freely of me and mine; second, that in consequence of this freedom, as well as from the gratuitous talking of those who knew nothing about the matter, very erroneous conclusions have been drawn about us on more than one point; and third, that it is a principle with me never to give others to understand any thing against an acquaintance, not only which I would not give, but which I have not given himself to understand; a principle, to which this book will have furnished no excep
It may be judged by this how little I have been in the habit of speaking against any body, and what a nuisance it is to me to do it now.
There was another thing that startled me in the Casa Lanfranchi. I had been led to consider the connexion between Lord Byron and Madame Guiccioli as more than warranted by Italian manners. Her husband was old enough to be her father. Every body knows how shamefully matches of this kind are permitted to take place even in England. But in Italy they are often accompanied, and almost always followed, by compromises of a very singular description, of which nobody thinks ill; and in fine, I had been given to understand that the attachment was real; and that it was rescuing Lord Byron from worse connexions; and that the lady's
* If it might appear otherwise with regard to Mr. Moore, whom I have never seen or corresponded with since his efforts against the Liberal, he has not been the less aware of the feelings entertained on the subject by myself and others.