Monday, February 02, 2009

of violent thirst and the power of music

From the Journals of Lord Byron
February 2. 1821

I have been considering what can be the reason why I always wake, at a certain hour in the morning, and always in very bad spirits — I may say, in actual despair and despondency, in all respects — even of that which pleased me over night. In about an hour or two, this goes off, and I compose either to sleep again, or, at least, to quiet. In England, five years ago, I had the same kind of hypochondria, but accompanied with so violent a thirst that I have drank as many as fifteen bottles of soda-water in one night, after going to bed, and been still thirsty — calculating, however, some lost from the bursting out and effervescence and over-flowing of the soda-water, in drawing the corks, or striking off the necks of the bottles from mere thirsty impatience. At present, I have not the thirst; but the depression of spirits is no less violent.

I read in Edgeworth's Memoirs of something similar (except that his thirst expended itself on small beer) in the case of Sir F.B. Delaval; — but then he was, at least, twenty years older. What is it? — liver? In England, Le Man (the apothecary) cured me of the thirst in three days, and it had lasted as many years. I suppose that it is all hypochondria.

What I feel most growing upon me are laziness, and a disrelish more powerful than indifference. It I rouse, it is into fury. I presume that I shall end (if not earlier by accident, or some such termination) like Swift — 'dying at top.' I confess I do not contemplate this with so much horror as he apparently did for some years before it happened. But Swift had hardly begun life at the very period (thirty-three) when I feel quite an old sort of feel.

Oh! there is an organ playing in the street — a waltz, too! I must leave off to listen. They are playing a waltz which I have heard ten thousand times at the balls in London, between 1812 and 1815. Music is a strange thing.

Notes to the text:

Sir F.B. Dealaval - "His friends, perhaps to obviate any suspicion of his having destroyed himself, had his body opened, and the physician who attended informed me that his death was probably occasioned by an unnatural distension of his stomach, which seemed to have lost the power of collapsing. This they attributed to his drinking immoderate quantities of water and small beer. He always had a large jug of beer left by his bedside at night, which was usually empty before morning. . . . Whether this was cause or effect still remains uncertain." — Memoirs of K. L. Edgeworth, ed. 1844, p. 97, note.

Music is a strange thing - "In this little incident of the music in the streets thus touching so suddenly upon the nerve of memory, and calling away his mind from its dark bodings to a recollection of years and scenes the happiest, perhaps, of his whole life, there is something that appears to me peculiarly affecting. - Moore's note

Some sources:

The Life of Lord Byron by Thomas Moore

Life of Lord Byron, With His Letters And Journals, Vol. 5 by Thomas Moore

The Works of Lord Byron (Prothero edition)

Memoirs of Richard Lovell Edgeworth, Esq

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