Saturday, January 31, 2009

leatherhead football

Tomorrow being Super Bowl Sunday I thought I'd post these photos of a game played in 1923 between the Georgetown University and a team made up of Marines stationed at Quantico, Virginia. Over the years, quite a few Georgetown players ended up in professional football. Some of the Marines had probably been Georgetown students and might have ended up in the NFL themselves. This game took place on October 6th. The Marines won, 14-3. The previous match between the two teams was covered by the New York Times, but not this one.

These photos come from the National Photo Company Collection in LC's Prints and Photos Division. Click to view full size.

A large number of Marines from Quantico had put on a marching display before the game. This photo shows them running to get good seats directly after.

Secretary of the Navy (and former Marine), Edwin Denby attended the game.

Denby was a participant in the infamous Teapot Dome scandal, then being investigated.

From the New York Times: Sec. Denby and Gen. Pershing See Marines Beat Georgetown, October 29, 1922.

Georgetown football games in 1922 and 1923 from Georgetown Football History.
1922 (6-3-1)
Georgetown 19, Lebanon Valley 6
Georgetown 37, Cincinnati 0
Georgetown 28, Fordham 13
Quantico Marines 9, Georgetown 6
Holy Cross 10, Georgetown 0
Georgia Tech 19, Georgetown 7
Georgetown 19, Bucknell 7
Georgetown 0, Boston College 0
Georgetown 46, George Washington 6
Georgetown 13, Lafayette 7

1923 (3-6)
Georgetown 20, George Washington 0
Quantico Marines 14, Georgetown 3
Princeton 17, Georgetown 0
Georgia Tech 20, Georgetown 10
Third Army Corps 14, Georgetown 7
Boston College 21, Georgetown 0
Bucknell 14, Georgetown 7
Georgetown 26, Tulsa 0
Georgetown 6, Fordham 0

till, dying, all he can resign is breath

From the Journals of Lord Byron
January 31, 1821

For several days I have not written any thing except a few answers to letters. In momentary expectation of an explosion of some kind, it is not easy to settle down to the desk for the higher kinds of composition. I could do it, to be sure, for, last summer, I wrote my drama in the very bustle of Madame la Contessa G.'s divorce, and all its process of accompaniments. At the same time, I also had the news of the loss of an important lawsuit in England. But these were only private and personal business; the present is of a different nature.

I suppose it is this, but have some suspicion that it may be laziness, which prevents me from writing; especially as Rochefoucalt says that "laziness often masters them all" — speaking of the passions. If this were true, it could hardly be said that "idleness is the root of all evil," since this is supposed to spring from the passions only: ergo, that which masters all the passions (laziness, to wit) would in so much be a good. Who knows?


I have been reading Grimm's Correspondence He repeats frequently, in speaking of a poet, or a man of genius in any department, even in music, (Grétry, for instance,) that he must have une ame qui se tourmente, un esprit violent. How far this may be true, I know not; but if it were, I should be a poet "per excellenza;" for I have always had une ame, which not only tormented itself but every body else in contact with it; and an esprit violent, which has almost left me without any esprit at all. As to defining what a poet should be, it is not worth while, for what are they worth? what have they done?

Grimm, however, is an excellent critic and literary historian. His Correspondence forms the annals of the literary part of that age of France, with much of her politics, and still more of her "way of life." He is as valuable, and far more entertaining than Muratori or Tiraboschi — I had almost said, than Ginguend — but there we should pause. However, 't is a great man in its line.

Monsieur St. Lambert has,
Et lorsqu' à ses regards la lumière est ravie,
II n'a plus, en mourant, à perdre que la vie.
This is, word for word, Thomson's
And dying, all we can resign is breath,
without the smallest acknowledgment from the Lorrainer of a poet. M. St. Lambert is dead as a man, and (for any thing I know to the contrary) damned, as a poet, by this time. However, his Seasons have good things, and, it may be, some of his own.

Notes to the text:

my drama - Marino Faliero, Doge of Venice.

Madame la Contessa G.'s divorce - This was not actually a divorce but a separation sanctioned by the Pope:
In the last month of the year 1819, after a residence of three years in Venice, Byron removed to Ravenna. His first visit to that city had been made in the preceding spring, on which occasion he had written the beautiful " Stanzas to the Po," beginning:
River, that rollest by the ancient walls
Where dwells the lady of my love.
Of this lady, Countess Teresa Guiccioli, and of this visit and the distinguished attentions paid to him as guest by the lady's husband, Count Guiccioli, we have heard already. . . . The relations between the two men soon become strained, leading speedily to open enmity and finally to a separation between the Count and Countess Guiccioli. Divorce being impossible in Italy, and appeal to the courts out of the question since, so Byron writes, "in this country the very courts hold such proofs in abhorrence, the Italians being as much more delicate in public than the English as they are more passionate in private," — the separation was effected by an appeal to the Pope. The papal decree dictated that the Countess thereafter should live either under her father's roof or in a convent. Naturally, she chose the former, and in the midsummer of 1820 Madame Guiccioli left Ravenna, and retired to a villa belonging to her father, Count Gamba, about fifteen miles from the city. Byron continued to rent a portion of the Guiccioli palace in Ravenna from, Count Guiccioli. Henceforward, for the remainder of Byron's life, his plans were shaped largely by the movements and fortunes of the Gamba family. They, like Byron himself, were ardent revolutionists; when this movement failed, and the Gambas — father, son, and daughter — were exiled from Romagna, Byron also withdrew, and soon all were under the same roof at Pisa; when, in turn, a year later, the Gambas were banished also from Tuscany as they had been from Romagna, Byron followed their fortunes to Liguria. Between Byron and Pietro Gamba, the son, a devoted friendship existed, terminated only by death; for Pietro joined Byron on his expedition to Greece, and stood at his bedside during his last moments.
loss of an important lawsuit in England - Described in a note to an earlier journal entry.

the present is of a different nature - Austria's invasion of Italy to quel the uprisings of the Carbonari.

Rochefoucalt - François de La Rochefoucauld.

masters them all - "C'est se tromper que de croire qu'il n'y ait que les violentes passions, comme l'ambition et l'amour, qui puissent triompher des autres. La paresse, toute languissante qu'elle est, ne laisse pas d'en ètre souvent la maitresse; elle usurpe sur tous les desseins et sur toutes les actions de la vie; elle y détruit et y consume insensiblement les passions et les vertus" (Réflections Morales, cclxxiv.).*
         Speaking of St. Lambert (Correspondence, ed. Tourneux, vol. viii. p. 289, note), he (Rochefoucauld) says, "Que lui manque-t-il donc pour etre un poete? Ce qui lui manque, c'est une âme qui se tourmente, un esprit violent, une imagination forte et brillante, etc., etc."**
         So again, speaking of Gretry, he says (ibid., September, 1768), "M. Greiri est de Liège; il est jeune, il a l'air pâle, blême, souffrant, tourmenté, tous les symptômes d'un homme de génie."*** - source: Prothero's edition of Byron's Works, 1904

Grimm's Correspondence - Friedrich Melchior Grimm (1723-1807) served as reader to the Duke of Saxe Coburg, then acted as secretary to the Due d'Orleans at Paris, where he made the acquaintance of Diderot, Raynal, Suard, and other literary men of the day. He was appointed Plenipotentiary at the court of France and the Duke of Saxe Coburg, who also raised him to the rank of baron. His correspondence with the duke, the Empress Catherine, Frederick the Great, and other potentates, is a lively chronicle of scandal, politics, and literature in France from 1753 to 1793. - source: Prothero's edition of Byron's Works, 1904

Muratori - Ludovico Antonio Muratori (1672-1750) published, among other learned works, his Rerum Italicarum Scriptores praecipii ab Anno 500 ad Annum 1500, 29 vols., fol., 1723-51, at Milan. - source: Prothero's edition of Byron's Works, 1904

Tiraboschi - Geronimo Tiraboschi (1731-1794) published his Storia della Letteratura Italians, 13 vols., 410, 1772-82, at Modena. - source: Prothero's edition of Byron's Works, 1904

Ginguend - Pierre Louis Ginguené (1748-1816), who under the Republic was French ambassador at Turin, began to publish his Histoire Litterairc de Fltalic, in 1811. The work, completed by Salfi, occupies 14 volumes, 1811-35. - source: Prothero's edition of Byron's Works, 1904

Monsieur St. Lambert - Francois, Marquis de St. Lambert (1716-1803), born at Vézelise in Lorraine, began life as a soldier and a courtier in the service of Stanislas II., of Poland and Lorraine. In 1756 he devoted himself to a literary career, associated himself with Helvetius and the French philosophical school of the day, contributed to the Encyclopédie, published several volumes of poetry, tales, memoirs, and philosophy, and spent the last years of his life at Eaubonne, near Montmorency, in the society of Madame d'Houdetot. His Saisons appeared in 1769. The passage to which Byron refers occurs in "L'Automne" (Chant troisieme) —
Il voit autour de lui tout périr, tout changer,
A la race nouvelle il se trouve étranger;
Et lorsqu' à ses regards la lumière est ravie,
Il n'a plus en mourant à perdre que la vie.****
In Thomson's "verses occasioned by the death of Mr. Aikman" occurs the line to which Byron refers —
Unhappy he who latest feels the blow,
Whose eyes have wept o'er every friend laid low,
Dragg'd lingering on from partial death to death,
Till, dying, all he can resign is breath.*****
- source: Prothero's edition of Byron's Works, 1904

Thompson - James Thomson.

Notes to the notes:

*Rough translation:
It is wrong to believe that only violent passions, such as ambition and love, can triumph over the others. Laziness, all that is languid -- often the mistress -- usurps all designs and all actions of life, and insensibly consumes and destroys both the passions and the virtues.
**Rough translation:
What is missing for him to be a poet? What is needed is a tormented soul, a violent spirit, a strong imagination and brilliant... etc.
***Rough translation:
M. Greiri is from Liège; he is young, he looks pale, pallid, suffering, tormented, all symptoms of a man of genius.
**** Rough translation:
He sees everything around him perish, everything change,
A new race is abroad;
And when he sees the ravishing light,
He has less to lose in dying than in living.
*****"Mr. Aikman was born In Scotland, and was designed for the profession of the law; but went to Italy, and returned a painter, He was patronized in Scotland by the Duke of Argyle, and afterwards met with encouragement to settle in London; but falling into a long and languishing disease, he died at his house in Leicester Fields, June 1731, aged 50. Byron wrote a panegyric upon him, and Mallet an epitaph, bee Walpole's Anecdotes, vol. It. p. 14." - source: The Works of Cowper and Thomson

James Thomson from

Friday, January 30, 2009

ça ira!

From the Journals of Lord Byron
January 30, 1821.

The Count P. G. this evening (by commission from the Ci.) transmitted to me the new words for the next six months. * * * and * * *. The new sacred word is * * * — the reply * * * — the rejoinder * * *. The former word (now changed) was * * * — there is also * * * — * * *. Things seem fast coming to a crisis — ça ira!

We talked over various matters of moment and movement. These I omit; — if they come to any thing, they will speak for themselves. After these, we spoke of - Kosciusko. Count R. G. told me that he has seen the Polish officers in the Italian war burst into tears on hearing his name.

Something must be up in Piedmont — all the letters and papers are stopped. Nobody knows anything, and the Germans are concentrating near Mantua. Of the decision of Leybach nothing is known. This state of things cannot last long. The ferment in men's minds at present cannot be conceived without seeing it.

Notes on the text:

Count P. G - Probably Teresa Guiccioli's brother Count Pietro Gamba.

by commission from the Ci - As requested by the local Carbonari cell of which Byron was a member.

* * * - "In the original MS. these watchwords are blotted over so as to be illegible." says the editor (Thomas Moore).

ça ira - French expression meaning 'There is hope' or 'it'll be fine' or 'that will do.' Ah! ça ira 'is an emblematic song of the French Revolution, first heard in May 1790. It underwent several changes in wording, all of which used the title words as part of the refrain.'

Kosciusko - Tadeusz Kos'ciuszko or Thaddeus Kosciusko (1746-1817). He commanded the national forces of Poland against Russia in 1794. Defeated and taken prisoner at Macicjowice, October 10, 1794, he died in 1817 at Soleure, in Switzerland. -- source: Works of Lord Byron

Count R. G. - Count Ruggero Gamba, Teresa's father. At this time she and Pietro lived with him in Ravenna.

Piedmont - Region in the north west of Italy.

Mantua - City in the central part of northern Italy. It lies north of the River Po, southwest of Vienna, north of Bologne.

decision of Leybach - Discussed in an earlier note.

View Larger Map

Some sources:

The Byron Chronology - 1820-1821 - Ravenna, Pisa, and Revolutionaries

Hobhouse's appendix to Teresa Guiccioli's book on Lord Byron’s Life in Italy

Thursday, January 29, 2009

trust on, and think to-morrow will repay

From the Journals of Lord Byron:
January 29, 1821.

Yesterday, the woman of ninety-five years of age was with me. She said her eldest son (if now alive) would have been seventy. She is thin — short, but active — hears, and sees, and talks incessantly. Several teeth left — all in the lower jaw, and single front teeth. She is very deeply wrinkled, and has a sort of scattered grey beard over her chin, at least as long as my mustachios. Her head, in fact, resembles the drawing in crayons of Pope the poet's mother, which is in some editions of his works.

I forgot to ask her if she remembered Alberoni (legate here), but will ask her next time. Gave her a louis — ordered her a new suit of clothes, and put her upon a weekly pension. Till now, she had worked at gathering wood and pine-nuts in the forest — pretty work at ninety-five years old! She had a dozen children, of whom some are alive. Her name is Maria Montanari.

Met a company of the sect (a kind of Liberal Club) called the Americani in the forest, all armed, and singing, with all their might, in Romagnuole — "Sem tutti soldat' per la liberta" ("we are all soldiers for liberty"). They cheered me as I passed — I returned their salute, and rode on. This may show the spirit of Italy at present.

My to-day's journal consists of what I omitted yesterday. To-day was much as usual. Have rather a better opinion of the writings of the Schlegels than I had four-and-twenty hours ago; and will amend it still further, if possible.

They say that the Piedmontese have at length arisen — ça ira!

Read Schlegel. Of Dante he says, "that at no time has the greatest and most national of all Italian poets ever been much the favourite of his countrymen." Tis false! There have been more editors and commentators (and imitators, ultimately) of Dante than of all their poets put together. Not a favourite! Why, they talk Dante — write Dante — and think and dream Dante at this moment (1821) to an excess, which would be ridiculous, but that he deserves it.

In the same style this German talks of gondolas on the Arno — a precious fellow to dare to speak of Italy!

He says also that Dante's chief defect is a want, in a word, of gentle feelings. Of gentle feelings! — and Francesca of Rimini — and the father's feelings in Ugolino — and Beatrice — and "La Pia!" Why, there is gentleness in Dante beyond all gentleness, when he is tender. It is true that, treating of the Christian Hades, or Hell, there is not much scope or site for gentleness — but who but Dante could have introduced any "gentleness" at all into Hell? Is there any in Milton's? No — and Dante's Heaven is all love, and glory and majesty.

One o'clock.

I have found out, however, where the German is right — it is about the Vicar of Wakefield. "Of all romances in miniature (and, perhaps, this is the best shape in which Romance can appear) the Vicar of Wakefield is, I think, the most exquisite." He thinks! — he might be sure. But it is very well for a Schlegel. I feel sleepy, and may as well get me to bed. To-morrow there will be fine weather.

"Trust on, and think to-morrow will repay."

Notes on the text:

woman of ninety-five years of age - This is the trecoci woman of a couple days back.

mother of Alexander Pope - The National Portrait Gallery (UK) has what is probably this drawing: Edith Pope.

Alberoni - Described in the notes on the same journal entry.

Americani - This seems to have been a secret society like the Carbonari -- Cacciatori Americani Vendita -- of which Byron was to become an officer (Master). Cacciatori Americani Vendita translates as American Hunters Lodge.

Romagnuole - Dialect of the region.

what Schlegel says of Dante - This from the editor of the Journals:
In lecture ix. (Lectures on the History of Literature, ed. 1841, p. 237) Schlegel says of Dante, "The truth is, that at no time has the greatest and most national of all Italian poets ever been much the favourite of his countrymen." Again (ibid., p. 238), he says, "His chief defect is, in a word, a want of gentle feelings." "I don't wonder," said Byron, "at the enthusiasm of the Italians about Dante. He is the poet of liberty. Persecution, exile, the 'dread of a foreign grave, could not shake his principles. There is no Italian gentleman, scarcely any well-educated girl, that has not all the finer passages of Dante at the fingers' ends; particularly the Ravennese. The Guiccioli, for instance, could almost repeat any part of the Divine Comedy; and, I dare say, is well read in the Vita Nuova, that prayer-book of love." — Medwin, Conversations of Lord Byron, p. 242.
gondolas on the Arno - This from the editor of the Journals:
In lecture xi. (Lectures on the History of Literature, p. 297), speaking of Tasso, Schlegel says, "Individual parts and episodes of his poem are frequently sung in the gondolas of the Aro and the Po."
Vicar of Wakefield - Explained in the notes on a previous journal entry.

Trust on, and think to-morrow will repay - From Dryden:
When I consider life, 't is all a cheat.
Yet, fooled by hope, men favour the deceit;
Trust on, and think to-morrow will repay:
To-morrow's falser than the former day;
Lies worse, and while it says we shall be blest
With some new joys, cuts off what we possest.

Some sources:

The Works of Alexander Pope

George Gordon 6th Baron, Byron of Rochdale

{Byron with his mustache in Albanian costume. Source:}

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

the feeling of a former world and future

From the Journals of Lord Byron
January 28, 1821.

Lugano Gazette did not come. Letters from Venice. It appears that the Austrian brutes have seized my three or four pounds of English powder. The scoundrels! — I hope to pay them in ball for that powder. Rode out till twilight.

Pondered the subjects of four tragedies to be written, (life and circumstances permitting,) to wit, Sardanapalus, already begun; Cain, a metaphysical subject, something in the style of Manfred, but in five acts, perhaps, with the chorus; Francesca of Rimini, in five acts; and I am not sure that I would not try Tiberius. I think that I could extract a something, of my tragic, at least, out of die gloomy sequestration and old age of the tyrant — and even out of his sojourn at Caprea — by softening the details, and exhibiting the despair which must have led to those very vicious pleasures. For none but a powerful and gloomy mind overthrown would have had recourse to such solitary horrors, — being also, at the same time, old, and the master of the world.


What is poetry? — The feeling of a Former world and Future.

Thought Second.

Why, at the very height of desire and human pleasure, worldly, social, amorous, ambitious, or even avaricious, - does there mingle a certain sense of doubt and sorrow - a fear of what's to come - a doubt of what is - a retrospect to the past, leading to a prognostication of the future? (The best of Prophets of the future is the Past.) Why is this, or these? - I know not, except that on a pinnacle we are most susceptible of giddiness, and that we never fear falling except from a precipice - the higher, the more awful, and the more sublime; and, therefore, I am not sure that Fear is not a pleasurable sensation; at least Hope is; and what Hope is there without a deep leaven of Fear? and what sensation is so delightful as Hope? and, if it were not for Hope, where would the Future be? - in hell. It is useless to say where the Present is, for most of us know; and as for the Past, what predominates in memory? — Hope baffled. Ergo, in all human affairs, it is Hope - Hope - Hope. I allow sixteen minutes, though I never counted them, to any given or supposed possession. From whatever place we commence, we know where it all must end. And yet, what good is there in knowing it? It does not make men better or wiser. During the greatest horrors of the greatest plagues, (Athens and Florence, for example - see Thucydides and Machiavelli,) men were more cruel and profligate than ever. It is all a mystery. I feel most things, but I know nothing except
— — — — — — — — — — — — —
— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —
— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —
{Byron put dashes in the journal something like this.
His editor says he made them "with impatient strokes of the pen."}

Thought for a Speech of Lucifer, in the Tragedy of Cain
Were Death an evil, would I let thee live?
Fool I live as I live — as thy Father lives,
And thy son's sons shall live for evermore.
Past Midnight. One o' the clock.

I have been reading W. F. Schlegel (brother to the other of the name) till now, and I can make out nothing. He evidently shows a great power of words, but there is nothing to be taken hold of. He is like Hazlitt, in English, who talks pimples — a red and white corruption rising up, (in little imitation of mountains upon maps,) but containing nothing, and discharging nothing, except their own humours.

I dislike him the worse, (that is, Schlegel,) because he always seems upon the verge of meaning; and, lo, he goes down like sunset, or melts like a rainbow, leaving a rather rich confusion, — to which, however, the above comparisons do too much honour.

Continuing to read Mr. Frederick Schlegel. He is not such a fool as I took him for, that is to say, when he speaks of the North. But still he speaks of things all over the world with a kind of authority that a philosopher would disdain, and a man of common sense, feeling, and knowledge of his own ignorance, would be ashamed of. The man is evidently wanting to make an impression, like his brother, — or like George in the Vicar of Wakefield, who found out that all the good things had been said already on the right side, and therefore 'dressed up some paradoxes' upon the wrong side — ingenious, but false, as he himself says — to which 'the learned world said nothing, nothing at all, sir.' The 'learned world,' however, has said something to the brothers Schlegel.

It is high time to think of something else. What they say of the antiquities of the North is best.

Notes to the text:

Lugano Gazette - A Swiss publication to which Byron subscribed. Lugano is an Italian-speaking town in the south of Switzerland bordering on Italy. In a letter to John Murray the previous fall, Byron had said that the Italians were eager for foreign news such as that which the Gazette contained: "divided and miserable as they are, and with neither leisure at present to read, nor head nor heart to judge of any thing but extracts from French newspapers and the Lugano Gazette." - source: Life; with his letters and journals.

English powder - Gunpowder. Byron had agreed to store procure and store weapons, ammunition, and the like for the local Carbonari. It seems the Austrians intercepted a shipment of powder that was being brought to him.

ball - Bullets.

four tragedies - Marino Faliero, Doge of Venice was published in 1821. Sardanapalus, a Tragedy. The Two Foscari, a Tragedy. and Cain, a Mystery were published in 1822, all by Byron's publisher John Murray in London.

Manfred - Manfred is a dramatic poem by Byron written in 1816-17 while he was living in Switzerland. It is about a man who is doomed to destroy those whom he loves and who himself dies refusing forgiveness or his own redemption.

Tiberius - He did not write a play about Tiberius.

those very vicious pleasures - While in Capri Suetonius records that Tiberius became paranoid and engaged in sexual perversity and cruelty. Before then he had executed his actual or perceived political rivals.

Continuing to read Mr. F. Schlegel - Refers to a translation of Schlegel's Lectures on the History of Literature which was published in 1818.

George in the Vicar of Wakefield - In Oliver Goldsmith's The Vicar of Wakefield the Vicar's son George says: 'Finding that there was no great degree of gentility affixed to the character of an usher, I resolved to accept his proposal; and having the highest respect for literature, hailed the antiqua mater of Grub-street with reverence. I thought it my glory to pursue a track which Dryden and Otway trod before me. I considered the goddess of this region as the parent of excellence; and however an intercourse with the world might give us good sense, the poverty she granted I supposed to be the nurse of genius! Big with these reflections, I sate down, and finding that the best things remained to be said on the wrong side, I resolved to write a book that should be wholly new. I therefore drest up three paradoxes with some ingenuity. They were false, indeed, but they were new. The jewels of truth have been so often imported by others, that nothing was left for me to import but some splendid things that at a distance looked every bit as well. Witness you powers what fancied importance sate perched upon my quill while I was writing. The whole learned world, I made no doubt, would rise to oppose my systems; but then I was prepared to oppose the whole learned world. Like the porcupine I sate self collected, with a quill pointed against every opposer.'

Some sources:

Life of Lord Byron, Vol. IV With His Letters and Journals / Moore, Thomas, 1779-1852

Works (1904)

The Works of Lord Byron (1853)

The Works of Lord Byron (1854)

Life; with his letters and journals

Lord Byron's Tragedies. Quarterly Review (february, 1822.)

The Life of Lord Byron

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

The Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Goldsmith

Links to pages of works by and about Byron

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

things a little pleasanter in Italy than England

There is no journal entry for January 27, 1821. He did write a letter that day, to his publisher, John Murray.

Ravenna, January 27. 1821.

I differ from you about the Dante, which I think should be published with the tragedy. But do as you please: you must be the best judge of your own craft. I agree with you about the title. The play may be good or bad, but I flatter myself that it is original as a picture of that kind of passion, which to my mind is so natural, that I am convinced that I should have done precisely what the Doge did on those provocations.

I am glad of Foscolo's approbation.

Excuse haste. I believe I mentioned to you that — I forget what it was; but no matter.

Thanks for your compliments of the year. I hope that it will be pleasanter than the last. I speak with reference to England only, as far as regards myself, where I had every kind of disappointment — lost an important law-suit — and the trustees of Lady Byron refusing to allow of an advantageous loan to be made from my property to Lord Blessington, &c. &c. by way of closing the four seasons. These, and a hundred other such things, made a year of bitter business for me in England. Luckily, things were a little pleasanter for me here, else I should have taken the liberty of Hannibal's ring.

Pray thank Gifford for all his goodnesses. The winter is as cold here as Parry's polarities. I must now take a canter in the forest; my horses are waiting.

Yours ever and truly.

Notes to the text:

Murray - The recipient of this letter was John Murray, Byron's publisher.

Dante - This is Byron's play The Prophecy of Dante.

tragedy - This is probably Marino Faliero, Doge of Venice, an Historical Tragedy found in Dramatic works of Lord Byron; including Manfred, Cain, Doge of Venice, Sardanapalus, and the Two Foscari, together with his Hebrew melodies and other poems (1840). See extensive critical comments published in the Quarterly Review, below.

that kind of passion - In the play the Doge sides with low-born city dwellers against the Venetian nobility who wish to exculpate a criminal who has accused the Doge's wife of infidelity. The Doge's passion is Romantic. He deplores the petty hypocrisy of the nobles yet they are his peers and he does not exult in his decision to side with the 'common ruffians' against them. He says: 'Oh Men! What are ye, and our best designs, / That we must work by crime to punish crime?' He is activated by his own passion against injustice in general and in particular what he sees as a wrong done to him personally. Yet he is restrained by his better judgment, his respect for constitutional law. Early in the play he says:
Oh for one year! Oh! but for even a day
Of my full youth, while yet my body served
My soul as serves the generous steed his lord,
I would have dash'd amongst them, asking few
In aid to overthrow these swoln patricians;
But now I must look round for other hands
To serve this hoary head; — but it shall plan
In such a sort as will not leave the task
Herculean, though as yet 'tis but a chaos
Of darkly-brooding thoughts: my fancy is
In her first work, more nearly to the light
Holding the sleeping images of things
For the selection of the pausing judgment. —
Doge - The Doge of Venice.

Foscolo - This is the writer, Ugo Foscolo.

Blessington - Husband to Byron's friend, Marguerite Gardiner, Countess of Blessington.

Hannibal's ring - An allusion to suicide.
Non gladii, non saxa dabunt, non tela; sat ille
Cannarum vindex, ac tanti sanguinis ultor, Annulus. Juvenal, Sat. x.

Nor swords, nor spears, nor stones from engines hurl'd,
Shall quell the man whose frown alarm'd the world:
The vengeance due to Cannae's fatal field.
And floods of human gore, a ring shall yield."
Such was the end of Hannibal: the Romans, who never thought themselves secure while he lived, no sooner heard that he had taken shelter at the court of Prusias, than they sent Q. Flaminius to demand him. Hannibal, who was well acquainted with the weakness of the Bithynian prince, and determined to die free, saw no other resource but swallowing poison; which, to be prepared against the worst, he always carried with him in the hollow of a ring! (Gifford)
- source for this note: Life, Letters and Journals of Lord Byron.

Gifford - This is William Gifford. He edited the Quarterly Review. A TLS review of a book of Murray's letters to Byron says: 'Though Byron resisted Murray’s prurient attempts to tone down Don Juan, he allowed Gifford great latitude to decide on revisions of first drafts of the tales and dramas, respecting him as an upholder of Augustan literary standards. Murray fed him titbits of Gifford’s praise, while Gifford warned Murray not to overexpose him: “After all he is a wonderful creature – if I had him, I would keep him up carefully, & shew him only on high days and holydays”.'

Parry's polarities - Refers to the Arctic explorer, William Edward Parry. See his Journal of a voyage for the discovery of a North-West Passage.

Some sources:

Byron. § 3. Life at Venice and Ravenna.

Full text of "Marino Faliero, Doge of Venice : an historical tragedy, in five acts, with notes ; The prophecy of Dante : a poem"

Lord Byron's Life in Italy By Teresa Guiccioli

Biography of Deborah Docherty: Marguerite, Countess of Blessington (1789-1849)

A Journal of the Conversations of Lord Byron with the Countess of Blessington

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

William Parry (1790 - 1855)

{Letter from Lord Byron to John Murray, 23 August 1811; National Library of Scotland}

{Letter from John Murray to Lord Byron, 22 October 1812; National Library of Scotland}

A note on Byron's life at this time:
In Ravenna he was brought into closer touch with the life of the Italian people than he had ever been. He gave arms to the Carbonari and alms to the poor. It was one of the happiest and most productive periods of his life. He wrote The Prophecy of Dante; three cantos for Don Juan; the poetic dramas Marino Faliero, Sardanapalus, The Two Foscari, and Cain (all published in 1821); and his satire on the poet Robert Southey, The Vision of Judgment.

Murray informed Byron of the huge success his poem Childe Harold’s pilgrimage was enjoying. The first edition of canto one and two had sold out in three days, with 13,000 copies sold in the first two years. The first edition cost 50 shillings, a huge sum of money at the time, and it meant that only well off gentry or businessmen could afford it. Subsequent editions were cheaper but still expensive.

Byron’s epic poem Childe Harold’s pilgrimage describes the travels and reflections of a world-weary young man who is disillusioned with a life of pleasure and revelry. Partially autobiographical the hero Harold was originally called Burun. The poem would eventually have four cantos, or parts.

- source: George Gordon Noel Byron, 6th Baron Byron

In 1822 Murray's Quarterly Review published an extensive review of Byron's recent work. It shows the ambivalence of the English intelligentsia towards the man and his work. Here is an extract giving the critic's opinion of the Doge play:
SEVERAL years have passed away since we undertook the review of any of Lord Byron's Poetry. . . . We have altogether abstained from noticing those strange, though often beautiful productions, which, since the appearance of the Third part of his Childe Harold, have flowed on, wave after wave, redundant as that ocean which Lord Byron loves to describe, but with few exceptions, little less monotonous,—and stained, in succession, with deeper and yet deeper tokens of those pollutions, which, even in the full tide of genius, announce that its ebb is near. We knew not any severity of criticism which could reach the faults or purify the taste of Don Juan, and we trusted that its author would himself, ere long, discover, that if he continued to write such works as these, he would lose the power of producing any thing better.

In this hope we have not been disappointed. Whatever may be the other merits of his tragedies, on the score of morals they are unimpeachable. His females, universally, are painted in truer and worthier colours than we have been accustomed to witness from his pencil, and the qualities which he holds up, in his other characters, to admiration and to pity, are entirely unmingled with those darker and disgusting tints, from which even Childe Harold was not free, and which he appears to have thought necessary to excite an interest in such characters as Manfred, Lara, Alp, and the Giaour. ... It is better that Lord Byron should be a manichee, or a deist, — nay, we would almost say, if the thing were possible, it is better that he should be a moral and argumentative atheist, than the professed and systematic poet of seduction, adultery and incest; the contemner of patriotism, the insulter of piety, the raker into every sink of vice and wretchedness to disgust and degrade and harden the hearts of his fellow-creatures. The speculations of a Hume and a D'Alembert may be the objects of respectful regret and pity, while the Pucelle is regarded with unmingled contempt and detestation. The infidel may be, the adversary of good morals cannot be, under a mistake as to the tendency of his doctrines. . . .

Marino Faliero has, we believe, been pretty generally pronounced a failure by the public voice, and we see no reason to call for a revision of their sentence. It contains, beyond all doubt, many passages of commanding eloquence and some of genuine poetry, and the scenes, more particularly, in which Lord Byron has neglected the absurd creed of his pseudo-Hellenic writers, are conceived and elaborated with great tragic effect and dexterity. But the subject is decidedly ill-chosen. ... The Doge of Venice, to chastize the vulgar libel of a foolish boy, attempts to overturn that republic of which he is the first and most trusted servant; to massacre all his ancient friends and fellow-soldiers, the magistracy and nobility of the land. With such a resentment as this, thus simply stated and taken singly, who ever sympathized, or who but Lord Byron would have expected in such a cause to be able to awaken sympathy? It is little to the purpose to say that this is all historically true. A thing may be true without being probable, and such a case of idiosyncrasy as is implied in a resentment so sudden and extravagant, is no more a fitting subject for the poet than an animal with two heads would be for an artist of a different description.

It is true that, when a long course of mutual bickering had preceded, when the mind of the prince had been prepared, by due degrees, to hate the oligarchy with which he was surrounded and over-ruled, and to feel or suspect, in every act of the senate, a studied and persevering design to wound and degrade him, a very slight addition of injury might make the cup of anger overflow; and the insufficient punishment of Steno (though to most men this punishment seems not unequal to the offence) might have opened the last floodgate to that torrent which had been long gathering strength from innumerable petty insults and aggressions.

It is also possible that an old man, doatingly fond of a young and beautiful wife, yet not insensible to the ridicule of such an unequal alliance, might for months or years have been tormenting himself with the suspected suspicions of his countrymen; have smarted, though convinced of his consort's purity, under the idea that others were not equally candid, and have attached, at length, the greater importance to Steno's ribaldry from apprehending this last to be no more than an overt demonstration of the secret thoughts of half the little world of Venice. . . .

With all these defects there is much to praise in the Doge of Venice. The soliloquy of Leoni is exquisite, and increases our regret that, with such powers of pleasing, Lord Byron has not always condescended to please. The conception of the principal character is good. The dignified tenderness of the Doge towards his young wife is very fine and impressive, and the struggle of feelings with which he undertakes the conspiracy is admirably contrasted with the ferocious eagerness of his low-born associates; and only loses its effect because we cannot but be sensible that the man who felt thus, could not have gone on with his guilty project unless stimulated by some greater and more accumulated injuries than are, in the course of the present tragedy, brought before the perception of the reader. The Duchess is formal and cold, without even that degree of love for her old husband which a child might have for her parent, or a pupil for her instructor. Even in her longest and best speech, at the most touching moment of the catastrophe, she can moralize, in a strain of pedantry less natural to a woman than to any other person similarly circumstanced, on lions stung by gnats, Achilles, Helen, Lucretia, the siege of Clusium, Caligula, Caaba and Persepolis! The lines to which we allude are fine in themselves, indeed, and if they had been spoken by Benintende as a funeral oration over the duke's body, or, still more perhaps, if they had been spoken by the duke's counsel on his trial, they would have been perfectly in place and character. But that is not the highest order of female intellect which is disposed to be long-winded in distress; nor does any one, either male or female, who is really and deeply affected, find time for wise saws and instances ancient and modern.

It must be owned, however, that the Duke himself bears his calamities with a patience which would be more heroic if it were less wordy. It is possible, that a condemned man might recollect his quarrel with the Bishop of Treviso and the evil omen which accompanied his solemn landing at Venice. But there are not many condemned men who, during a last and stinted interview with a beloved wife, would have employed so much time in relating anecdotes of themselves, and we should least of all expect it in one whose fiery character would have induced him to hurry forward to his end. The same objection applies to his prophecy of the future miseries of Venice. Its language and imagery are, doubtless, extremely powerful and impressive; but we cannot allow that it is either dramatic or characteristic. A prophecy (which we know to be ex post facto) is, under any circumstances, one of the cheapest and least artificial of poetic machines. But under such circumstances as the present no audience could have endured so long a speech without disgust and weariness; and Marino Faliero was most likely to have met his death like our own Sydney,
With no harangue idly proclaim'd aloud
To catch the worthless plaudit of the crowd;
No feeble boast, death's terrors to defy,
Yet still delaying, as afraid to die!
His last speech to the executioner would, probably, have been his only one.
Slave, do thine office!
Strike as I struck the foe! strike as I would
Have struck those tyrants! strike deep as my curse!
Strike, and but once.
On the whole the Doge of Venice is the effect of a powerful and cultivated mind. It has all the requisites of tragedy, sublimity, terror and pathos—all but that without which the rest are unavailing, interest! With many detached passages which neither derogate from Lord Byron's former fame, nor would have derogated from the reputation of our best ancient tragedians, it is, as a whole, neither sustained nor impressive. The poet, except in the soliloquy of Leoni, scarcely ever seems to have written with his own thorough good liking. He may be suspected throughout to have had in his eye some other model than nature; and we rise from his work with the same feelmg as if we had been reading a translation. For this want of mterest the subject itself is doubtless in some measure to blame, though, if the same subject had been differently treated, we are inclined to believe a very different effect would have been produced. But for the constraint and stiffness of the poetry, we have nothing to blame but the apparent resolution of its author to set (at whatever risk) au example of classical correctness to his uncivilized countrymen, and rather to forego success than to succeed after the manner of Shakspeare.

Art. X.—1. Marino Faliero, Doge of Venice, an Historical Tragedy.—2. Sardanapalus, a Tragedy.—3. The Two Foscari, a Tragedy.—4. Cain, a Mystery.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

when this hand that writes is as cold as the hearts which have stung me

From the Journals of Lord Byron
January 26. 1821.

Fine day — a few mares' tails portending change, but the sky clear, upon the whole. Rode — fired pistols — good shooting. Coming back, met an old man. Charity — purchased a shilling's worth of salvation. If that was to be bought, I have given more to my fellow-creatures in this life — sometimes for vice, but, if not more often, at least more considerably, for virtue — than I now possess. I never in my life gave a mistress so much as I have sometimes given a poor man in honest distress; but no matter. The scoundrels who have all along persecuted me (with the help of * * who has crowned their efforts) will triumph; — and, when justice is done to me, it will be when this hand that writes is as cold as the hearts which have stung me.

Returning, on the bridge near the mill, met an old woman. I asked her age — she said 'Trecroci.' I asked my groom (though myself a decent Italian) what the devil her three crosses meant. He said, ninety years, and that she had five years more to boot!! I repeated the same three times, not to mistake — ninety-five years!!! — and she was yet rather active — heard my question, for she answered it — saw me, for she advanced towards me; and did not appear at all decrepit, though certainly touched with years. Told her to come to-morrow, and will examine her myself. I love phenomena. If she is ninety-five years old, she must recollect the Cardinal Alberoni, who was legate here.

On dismounting, found Lieutenant E. just arrived from Faenza. Invited him to dine with me to-morrow. Did not invite him for to-day, because there was a small turbot, (Friday, fast regularly and religiously,) which I wanted to eat all myself. Ate it.

"Went out — found T. as usual — music. The gentlemen, who make revolutions and are gone on a shooting, are not yet returned. They don't return till Sunday — that is to say, they have been out for five days, buffooning, while the interests of a whole country are at stake, and even they themselves compromised.

It is a difficult part to play amongst such a set of assassins and blockheads — but, when the scum is skimmed off, or has boiled over, good may come of it. If this country could but be freed, what would be too great for the accomplishment of that desire? for the extinction of that Sigh of Ages? Let us hope. They have hoped these thousand years. The very revolvement of the chances may bring it — it is upon the dice.

If the Neapolitans have but a single Massaniello amongst them, they will beat the bloody butchers of the crown and sabre. Holland, in worse circumstances, beat the Spains and Philips; America beat the English; Greece beat Xerxes; and France beat Europe, till she took a tyrant; South America beats her old vultures out of their nest; and, if these men are but firm in themselves, there is nothing to shake them from without.

Notes on the text:

mares' tails -
{Mmares' tails from}

with the help of * * - Unidentified.

on the bridge near the mill - Ravenna is nearly surrounded by the Rivers Ronco and Montone, so Byron was pretty likely to have crossed a bridge no matter which direction he took. See maps below. The bridge near the mill has not been identified.

Trecroci - Italian for three crosses. 'Probably, said Signor Sabastiani Fusconi (himself exiled with the Gambas in 1821) to Mr. Richard Edgcumbe, 'the old woman replied, Tre tre croci, i.e. ninety years. Byron gave her a pension during the rest of her life. - source: Works By George Gordon Byron Byron

Friday, fast regularly and religiously - "Byron," says Medwin (The Angler in Wales, vol. i. p. 118), " who was a 'virtuous man' in Falstaff's sense of the word, had great "faith in abstinence, for on Friday he would not touch beccaficas." Beccaficas are birds, smaller than sparrows, but very fat, and they are generally eaten half raw. (Travels through France and Italy, by Tobias Smollett - Chapter 18). - source: Works By George Gordon Byron Byron

Alberoni - The Cardinal is famous for erecting the Porto Alberoni in Ravenna.

{A portrait of Giulio Alberoni from}

{The Porta Alberoni from Delle mura e delle porte di Ravenna}

"Alberoni (1664-1752), the son of a gardener of Placentia, through the Duke of Parma and his niece, Elizabeth Farnese, Queen of Spain, rose to be the ruler of Spain from 1715 to 1719,under Philip V. Afier his downfall he returned to Italy, his native country, suffered, at the hands of Pope Innocent III., a sort of imprisonment which lasted four years, was restored to his rights as cardinal in 1723, and made legate to the Romagna (1734-39). As legate, in 1739, be endeavoured to unite the republic of San Marino to the Papal dominions, representing to Clement XII. that it was a second Geneva. The attempt failed, and in 1740 Alberoni was removed by Benedict XIV. from the Romagna to Bologna. The story is told in Lady Morgan's Italy (vol. iii. pp. 236, 237), where it was possibly read by Byron." - source: Works By George Gordon Byron Byron

Lieutenant E. - Not identified.

Faenza - See map below.

found T. as usual - T. is his mistress Teresa of course.

gentlemen, who make revolutions - The Carbonari, whose lackadaisical attitude infuriated Byron.

Sigh of Ages - The perennial quest for Italian unification.

The very revolvement of the chances - Revolvement means the act of revolvling, or in this case, as the context indicates rolling, as in the roll of the dice.

the bloody butchers of the crown and sabre - Byron refers to the Austrian army of course.

Massaniello - Tommaso Aniello (1623-1647), a fisherman of Amalfi, headed a rising of the Neapolitans in 1647, and compelled the Spanish Viceroy, Arcos, to abolish unpopular taxes, and to proclaim an amnesty. But his cruelty alienated his followers, and, after being master of Naples for seven days, he was assassinated by order of the viceroy. - source: Works By George Gordon Byron Byron

{Old map of Ravenna and surrounding region as if viewed from the southeast. (It is oriented so that the top of the map faces northwest.) Source:}

{Detail showing Ravenna's two rivers, Ronco and Montone. They flow from northwest to southeast, passing the city on the north/northeast and west, respectively, and they join together as they thereafter flow to the Adriatic Sea.}

{This map shows the rivers a bit more clearly. Source:}

View Larger Map

Some sources:

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

Lord Byron's Life in Italy

As well as the ones cited above.

which is best, life or death, the gods only know

From the Journals of Lord Byron
January 25. 1821.

Received a letter from Lord S.O. state secretary of the Seven Islands — a fine fellow — clever — dished in England five years ago, and came abroad to retrench and to renew. He wrote from Ancona, in his way back to Corfu, on some matters of our own. He is son of the late Duke of L. by a second marriage. He wants me to go to Corfu. Why not? — perhaps I may, next spring.

Answered Murray's letter — read — lounged. Scrawled this additional page of life's log - book. One day more is over of it and of me: — but 'which is best, life or death, the gods only know,' as Socrates said to his judges, on the breaking up of the tribunal. Two thousand years since that sage's declaration of ignorance have not enlightened us more upon this important point; for, according to the Christian dispensation, no one can know whether he is sure of salvation — even the most righteous — since a single slip of faith may throw him on his back, like a skaiter, while gliding smoothly to his paradise. Now, therefore, whatever the certainty of faith in the facts may be, the certainty of the individual as to his happiness or misery is no greater than it was under Jupiter.

It has been said that the immortality of the soul is a 'grand peut- être' — but still it is a grand one. Every body clings to it — the stupidest, and dullest, and wickedest of human bipeds is still persuaded that he is immortal.

Notes to the text:

S.O. ... son of the late Duke of L. by a second marriage - Sidney Godolphin Osborne (1789-1861), son of Francis Godolphin, fifth Duke of Leeds, by his second wife, Catherine, daughter of Thomas Anguish. He was therefore stepson to Lady Amerlia d'Arcy, afterwards Baroness Conyers in her own right, who married (1) the Marquis of Carmarthen, afterwards fifth Duke of Leeds, from whom she was divorced in 1779; and (2) Captain Byron, father of the poet, by whom she was mother of Augusta Leigh. (source of this note: The Works of Lord Byron)

Seven Islands - Malta. The islands became a protectorate of Great Britain following a rebellion against the French in 1799. Malta became a constitutional monarchy, and thus independent of the UK, in 1964.

dished - trans. slang. To ‘do for’, defeat completely, ruin; to cheat, circumvent. From the notion of food being done, and dished. (OED)

Answered Murray's letter - Unknown

which is best, life or death, the gods only know - This is a reference to Cicero's meditations on death in his Tuscan Disputations: 'It Is time that I retire to death, and you to your affairs of life: which of us has the better is known to the gods, but to no mortal man.' He goes on to say:
That God who presides in us forbids our departure hence without his leave. But when God himself has given us a just cause, as formerly he did to Socrates, and lately to Cato, and often to many others in such a case, certainly every man of sense would gladly exchange this darkness for that light : not that he would forcibly break from the chains that held him, for that would be against the law ; but, like a man released from prison by a magistrate or some lawful authority, so he too would walk away, being released and discharged by God. For the whole life of a philosopher is, as the same philosopher says, a meditation on death.
Byron used the concept in verses of Don Juan on which he was working at this time:

They accuse me — Me — the present writer of
     The present poem — of— I know not what —
A tendency to under-rate and scoff
     At human power and virtue, and all that;
And this they say in language rather rough.
     Good God I I wonder what they would be at!
I say no more than hath been said* In Dante's
Verse, and by Solomon and by Cervantes;

By Swift, by Machiavel, by Rochefoucault,
     By Fenelon, by Luther, and by Plato ;
By Tillotson, and Wesley, and Rousseau,
     Who knew this life was not worth a potato.
'Tis not their fault, nor mine, if this be so, —
     For my part, I pretend not to be Cato,
Nor even Diogenes. —We live and die,
But which is best, you know no more than I.

Socrates said, our only knowledge was
     "To know that nothing could be known;" a pleasant
Science enough, which levels to an ass
     Each man of wisdom, future, past, or present.
Newton (that proverb of the mind), alas I
     Declared, with all his grand discoveries recent,
That he himself felt only " like a youth
Picking up shells by the great ocean — Truth.

      - Don Juan 7th Canto, 3rd-5th Verses
Socrates said to his judges - Xenophon summarizes: 'With regard to death, he was no way solicitous to importune his judges, as the custom was with others: on the contrary, he thought it the best time for him to die. And that he had thus determined with himself was still the more evident after his condemnation; for when he was ordered to fix his own penalty, he refused to do it, neither would he suffer any other to do it for him: saying that to fix a penalty implied a confession of guilt. And afterwards, when his friends would have withdrawn him privately, he would not consent; but asked them with a smile, “If they knew of any place beyond the borders of Attica where death could not approach him?”' (source: The Defense Of Socrates Before His Judges by Xenophon)

grand peut-être - Tradition has it that Rabelais died saying, 'Je vais chercher le grand Peut-etre.'

View Larger Map

{Byron's scrawl; source: Jeffrey Hoeper's Byron pages}

Some sources:

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

The Life, Letters and Journals of Lord Byron By George Gordon Byron Byron, Thomas Moore,

The Works of Lord Byron

Don Juan (Byron)/Canto the Seventh

Full text of "Cicero's Tusculan disputations : also treatises On the nature of the gods, and On the commonwealth"

The Defense Of Socrates Before His Judges by Xenophon

Notes and Queries By William White

Saturday, January 24, 2009

snivelling, popping, small-shot, water-hen waste of powder, ammunition, and shot

Journals of Lord Byron
January 24. 1821.

Returned — met some masques in the Corso — 'Vive la bagatelle!' — the Germans are on the Po, the Barbarians at the gate, and their masters in council at Leybach (or whatever the eructation of the sound may syllable into a human pronunciation), and lo! they dance and sing and make merry, 'for to-morrow they may die.' Who can say that the Arlequins are not right? Like the Lady Baussiere, and my old friend Burton — I 'rode on.'

Dined — (damn this pen!) — beef tough — there is no beef in Italy worth a curse; unless a man could eat an old ox with the hide on, singed in the sun.

The principal persons in the events which may occur in a few days are gone out on a shooting party. If it were like a 'highland hunting,' a pretext of the chase for a grand re-union of counsellors and chiefs, it would be all very well. But it is nothing more or less than a real snivelling, popping, small-shot, water-hen waste of powder, ammunition, and shot, for their own special amusement: a rare set of fellows for 'a man to risk his neck with,' as 'Marishall Wells' says in the Black Dwarf.

If they gather, — 'whilk is to be doubted,' — they will not muster a thousand men. The reason of this is, that the populace are not interested, — only the higher and middle orders. I wish that the peasantry were; they are a fine savage race of two-legged leopards. But the Bolognese won't — the Romagnuoles can't without them. Or, if they try — what then? They will try, and man can do no more — and, if he would but try his utmost, much might be done. The Dutch, for instance, against the Spaniards — then the tyrants of Europe, since, the slaves, and, lately, the freedmen.

The year 1820 was not a fortunate one for the individual me, whatever it may be for the nations. I lost a lawsuit, after two decisions in my favour. The project of lending money on an Irish mortgage was finally rejected by my wife's trustee after a year's hope and trouble. The Rochdale lawsuit had endured fifteen years, and always prospered till I married; since which, every thing has gone wrong — with me at least.

In the same year, 1820, the Countess T.G. nata Ga.Gi. in despite of all I said and did to prevent it, would separate from her husband, Il Cavalier Commendatore Gi. &c. &c. &c. and all on the account of 'P.P. clerk of this parish.' The other little petty vexations of the year — overturns in carriages — the murder of people before one's door, and dying in one's beds — the cramp in swimming — colics — indigestions and bilious attacks, &c. &c. &c. —
Many small articles make up a sum.
And hey ho for Caleb Quotem, oh!

Notes on the text:

Corso - Italian for course, meaning way, boulevard, main street

Vive la bagatelle - From an expression of Laurence Sterne: 'Vive l'amour! Et vive la bagatelle!', meaning something like, Long Live Love; and long live frivolity! See Sterne: A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy.

Germans at the Po - The Austrian army is about to cross the River Po. Germans were one of the peoples in the Austro-Hungarian Empire formed in 1815. Directly below is a map of this empire. Scroll down to see a Google map showing the location of the Po.

barbarians at the gate - Origin unknown; probably first used regarding the fall of Rome.

Leybach - This is Ljubljana in Slovenia, then known as Leybach (modern german: Laibach). See Google map below.

Arlequins - Harlequins

Lady Baussiere ... rode on - Sterne, in Tristram Shandy, repeats the phrase:
The Lady Baussiere had got into a
wilderness of conceits, with moralizing
too intricately upon La Fosseuse's text --
She mounted her palfry, her page fol-
lowed her -- the host passed by -- the lady
Baussiere rode on.

-- The Lady Baussiere rode on.

Pity the unhappy, said a devout, ve-
nerable, hoary-headed man, meekly hold-
ing up a box, begirt with iron, in his
withered hands ---- I beg for the unfor-
tunate -- good, my lady, 'tis for a prison
-- for an hospital -- 'tis for an old man --
a poor man undone by shipwreck, by
suretyship, by fire ---- I call God and all
his angels to witness -- 'tis to cloath the
naked -- to feed the hungry -- 'tis to com-
fort the sick and the broken hearted.

-- The Lady Baussiere rode on. . . .

A decayed kinsman bowed himself to
the ground.

-- The Lady Baussiere rode on.
Burton - Robert Burton uses the phrase in Anatomy of Melancholy. 'Byron was a devoted admirer of Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy, and, like him in his part of "Democritus Junior," and like the Italians, laughed at misfortunes.' (Quote from the Prothero edition of Byron's Works.)

highland hunting - This seems to make satirical reference to a style of aristocratic hunting practiced by the Highland clans. Sir Walter Scott uses the term in Waverley.

small-shot - No great weapon: lightly-charged shotgun.

water-hen - Also called the moor-hen; presumably Byron means common prey, small game.

a man to risk his neck with - The phrase comes from Scott's Black Dwarf:
'For my part, I won't enter my horse for such a plate,' said Mareschal; and added, betwixt his teeth, 'A pretty pair of fellows to trust a man's neck with!'
-- The Black Dwarf, chap. xiii.
whilk is to be doubted - A paraphrase of an expression Scott uses in some of his novels. For example:
'Now, that's downright shamefu', said Mrs. Heukbane, 'to scorn the poor silly gait of a lassie after he's keepit company wi' her sae lang, and had his will o' her, as I make nae doubt he has.'

'It's but ower muckle to be doubted,' echoed Mrs. Shortcake;--- 'to cast up to her that her father's a barber and has a pole at his door, and that she's but a manty-maker hersell! Hout fy for shame!'
two-legged leopards - A coinage of Byron's

the Bolognese won't - Bologna was threatened by the Austrian army as was Ravenna. See Google map below

Romagnuoles - Refers to the area of East Romagna in which Bologna and Ravenna are located.

the Dutch, for instance, against the Spaniards - The Dutch war for independence spanned 80 years from 1568 to 1648.

I lost a lawsuit - Byron had his ownership of the family's Rochdale estate, with lucrative coal mines, taken from him. The action was not legal and Byron's suit to regain it took many years to wind its way through court.

Countess T.G. nata Ga.Gi - Byron's mistress, the Countess Teresa Guiccioli was born Gamba Bhiselli. She was daughter of Count Gamba of Ravenna.

P.P. clerk of this parish - This refers to a parody of Bishop Burnet's History of my own Times:
Many small articles make up a sum ;
I dabble in all—I'm merry and rum;
And 'tis heigho ! for Caleb Quotem, O!

View Larger Map

A bit of background information:

This comes from The Works of Lord Byron, Letters and Journals, Volume 1 / Byron, George Gordon Byron, Baron, 1788-1824:
Lord Byron's evidence as to the character of the revolutionary party is forcibly recalled to our recollection. He, too, had endeavoured to relieve the tedium of joyless dissipation by playing at conspiracies. The family with which he was so discreditably connected were concerned in these plots; but—notwithstanding the lax morality he affected where Austrian barbarians were concerned—in the journal since made public by his biographer he makes no effort to conceal his contempt for his associates and the horror that some of their practices inspire. In January, 1821, he expresses disapprobation of 'the sort of shooting that has of late been the tenor of their exploits.' This passage is explained shortly after: 'Another assassination has taken place at Cesena ; in all, about forty in Romagna within the last three months.' Again:— It is a difficult part to play amongst such a set of assassins and blockheads. The principal persons in the events which may occur in a few days are gone out on a shooting party, a real snivelling, popping, small-shot water-hen waste of powder and ammunition and shot for their own special amusement; a rare set of fellows for a man to risk his neck with.'

In the mean time the affair grew serious; the sportsmen had no intention of playing out the play; the Austrians threatened to cross the frontier, and the Legate ordered a search for arms: — 'What do my friends the patriots do?' says Lord Byron; 'Why they throw back on my hands and into my house those very arms (without a word of warning previously) with which I furnished them at their own request and at my own peril and expense.' — Moore's Life of Lord Byron, vol. v. pp. 62-85.

Some sources:

The Works of Lord Byron

The Stanford Dictionary of Anglicised Words and Phrases

Notes and Queries: Frivolity

En attendant—Vive l’amlour! et vive la bagatelle!

Sporting Magazine

Natural History & Sport in Moray

The Quarterly review


Sir Walter Scott: The Antiquary

Dutch Revolt

Rochdale coal mines

Friday, January 23, 2009

Byron and the Carbonari

From the Journals of Lord Byron
January 23, 1821

Fine day. Read - rode - fired pistols, and returned. Dined - read. Went out at eight - made the usual visit. Heard of nothing but war, - 'the cry is still, They come'. The Carbonari seem to have no plan - nothing fixed among themselves, how, when, or what to do. In that case, they will make nothing of this project, so often postponed, and never put in action.

Came home, and gave some necessary orders, in case of circumstances requiring a change of place. I shall act according to what may seem proper, when I hear decidedly what the Barbarians mean to do. At present, they are building a bridge of boats over the Po, which looks very warlike. A few days will probably show. I think of retiring towards Ancona, nearer the northern frontier, that is to say, if Teresa and her father are obliged to retire, which is most likely, as all the family are Liberals. If not, I shall stay. But my movements will depend upon the lady's wishes - for myself, it is much the same.

I am somewhat puzzled what to do with my little daughter, and my effects, which are of some quantity and value, - and neither of them do in the seat of war, where I think of going. But there is an elderly lady who will take charge of her, and T[eresa] says that the Marchese C. will undertake to hold the chattels in safe keeping. Half the city are getting their affairs in marching trim. A pretty Carnival! The blackguards might as well have waited till Lent.

Notes on the text:

Heard of nothing but war - During the first third of the nineteenth century a group of secret societies called the Carbonari were trying to free Italy from foreign intervention and establish constitutional government. The treaty that concluded the Napoleonic Wars gave Austria the right to intervene in Italian affairs in order to maintain the status quo of 1815. At the time Byron wrote, an Austrian army was making its way south to defeat Carbonari insurrections in the area in which he lived.

'the cry is still, They come' This quote from MacBeth, Act V, Scene 5, suggests that -- despite his support for them -- Byron recognizes delusions of power among the Carbonari and overwheming strength of the Austrian forces.

Carbonari - This group of secret societies aimed to establish constitutional government in parts of Italy. It adopted elaborate rituals associated with groups like the Freemasons and was an opponent of the Catholic Church as well as of devine-right monarchy. The Caronari did not achieve their goals and, later in the 19th-century, became absorbed into the movements for national unification. Byron supported the cause and was himself an honorary leader. At the time of this diary entry he was storing arms for them in his house.

the Barbarians - Byron means the Austrian army.

the Po - This river runs eastward across the top of Italy. In the east it separates Venice from Ravenna and the rest of southern Italy.

Ancona - A town south of Ravenna and thus farther away from the advancing Austrian army.

Teresa - This is the Countess Teresa Guiccioli. She was married to the Count when she was only 16 and he was advanced in age. At age nineteen she met Byron and became his lover. The Count at first tolerated the affair, but later obtained sanction from the pope to separate from his wife. She moved in with her father. The Guiccioli's, like much of the Italian aristocracy and middle classes, opposed Austria's intervention and supported the constitutional goals of the Carbonari.

my little daughter - This was Byron's illegitimate daughter,
Clara Allegra Byron, then only four years old. Her mother was Claire Clairmont, the stepsister of Mary Shelley. At this time Byron was her guardian in the sense that, though she did not live with him, he supported her in a place not far away. She would die the next year, not much before he himself died.

Marchese C - This is Marchese Cavalli, brother to Teresa's estranged husband.

This map shows three places mentioned in the diary entry: Ravenna, where Byron lived at the time; Ancona, where he proposed to move in order to avoid the Austrian army; and the River Po which the Austrians are about to cross at the time he writes.

View Larger Map


{depiction of the secret Carbonari oath-taking from}

{portrait of Countess Teresa Guiccioli from}

{portrait of Byron's daughter Allegra from}

some sources:


Life of Lord Byron, With His Letters And Journals, Vol. 5 / Byron, George Gordon Byron, Baron, 1788-1824

Encyclopedia article on the Carbonari (New Advent Encyclopedia)

Wikipedia article on Allegra Byron

A biography of Allegra

The Byron Chronology - 1820-1821 - Ravenna, Pisa, and Revolutionaries

The Life of Lord Byron 1830 by John Galt (1779-1839)

From Byron Timeline - 1820-1821 - Ravenna, Pisa, and Revolutionaries:

April Byron becomes interested in the actions of the insurrectionist Carbonari who wish for an Italian republic.

Aristocrats like Teresa's father, Count Ruggero Gamba, increasingly oppose the Austrian oligarchy, while the ecclesiastical party actively supports the puppet-government.

May, around the 15th The Count grows angry at Teresa's familiarity with Byron and confronts Byron.

The Count's violent behavior frightens Teresa; the next morning she calls her father and brothers to the Pallazzo and asks to return to their protection

July 6 The Pope grants Teresa a separation.

July Byron, in the summer, visits some of the meetings of the Carbonari and becomes an honorary chief in the Turba (or Mob) faction.