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And the Moon Be Still As Bright: Lord Byron in Italy (part 2 of 2)

By (February 1, 2014) 3 Comments

In Part 1, we followed the turbulent and chaotic events – the deaths, the illicit love affairs, the scandals – that eventually drove the poet Byron from his native England and Byronsent him wandering abroad, where he quickly answered the siren-call of Italy. No sooner had he journeyed there than he was once again impetuously falling in love, first with a woman nearly ten years his junior. More turbulence and chaos would follow in short order.

Upon arriving in Italy, Lord Byron promptly fell in love. The woman was 22-year-old Marianna Segati, the wife of his landlord, whose draper’s shop was below their first-floor apartment. In an irony perhaps not lost on Byron, the shop name was Il Corno (The Horn) and its signage showed the antlers of a deer… horns for cuckolding.

Byron was soon introduced to Venetian society and, pursuing his own idiosyncratic interests, started taking lessons in Armenian from the monks of the monastery of San Lazzaro degli Armeni, located in a small island near the Lido (the monastery still holds many items that were Byron’s). In 1924, the centenary of Byron’s death, Charles Richard Cammell wrote a poem addressed to the monks of San Lazzaro, which ended with these lines:

If England holds his body, Greece his heart,
You surely of his spirit hold a part,
Perhaps the highest, for with you remain
The Friendship and the Peace, but no the pain.

In January 1817, Byron learned that he had become the father of a little girl by Claire Clairmont. She was first named Alba (Sunrise) and eventually, Allegra (Cheerful). The news did nothing to dampen his revels; continuing his busy nightly sexual escapades, he fell ill in late February and wrote one of his best lyric poems from his sick bed:

So we’ll go no more a roving
So late into the night,
Though the heart be still as loving
And the moon be still as bright.

For the sword outwears its sheath
And the soul outwears its breast
And the heart must pause to breathe
And love itself have rest.

During the spring of 1817, Byron was sick and Marianna took care of him, helping him to recover. When he was well, he went on a trip, visiting Ferrara, Bologna, Florence (just for one day), Rome, Naples and Pompeii. During that summer, he got tired of Marianna and started a new relationship with Margherita Cogni, whom he had met while riding with his English friend John Cam Hobhouse at the Lido. Margherita was 22 years old, the wife of a sickly and unemployed baker. She was statuesque, her eyes were black and she had raven hair. She aroused Byron’s interest when initially she dismissed his attentions.

When Marianna Segati learned about Byron’s tryst with Margarita, the two rivals met and fought, scratching and pulling each other’s hair. Margaret prevailed and said to Marianne, “You’re not his wife, I am not his wife – you are his lover, and I am his lover … if he prefers what is mine to what is yours – is it my fault? ”

Margarita left her husband and moved in the palace that Byron had rented, but by fall of 1818, as Marianne before her, Margarita was discarded and attempted suicide twice. Byron, in his letters to friends and publishers in England, says that during the stay in Venice he had more than two hundred lovers, quite a few of these prostitutes, and that to pay them he spent about £ 2,500 (he paid £ 200 a year to rent a palace).

In a letter to Douglas Kinnaird, his friend and banker in London, he lists many of these women (after the fashion of Mozart’s Leporello), some by their full name, some only by surname, comparing their skills and foibles. Among these women were the former lovers of the late King of Naples, Joachim Murat, and a famous opera singer, Arpalice Taruscelli. He wrote to his London editor, John Murray, “…some are countesses, others wives of shoemakers, some from the nobility, other vile beings, all of them on the make…” Of Taruscelli, he told Murray, “I had her twice daily, for six days; today is the seventh day, but there is no rest since I am meeting her at midnight at her dressmaker.”  Probably, as the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, who visited Byron in Venice, suggested, Byron had also tried sex with young men, leading Shelley to define Venice a “Sea-Sodom.”

Byron had by then romped with so many women and a few men – both in England, Italy, and elsewhere, that it had become difficult to keep track of them all. Fascination with his persona for many, and his liberality with money for a few, attracted women like flies to a honey pot. In what a recent biographer Edna O’ Brien dubs “sodomy and sherbet debauches,” many women loved reading the author’s poetry and, given the opportunity, dropping their husband and children and loving him.

NewsteadAbbey(1880)
In December 1817, Byron sold his ancestral English home, Newstead Abbey, for the enormous sum of £ 97,500. Thus, not only was he able to pay all debts, but also found himself rich. Now that he could afford it, he started looking for a palace to lease. When negotiations for the Gritti Palace (now the Hotel Gritti) failed, he rented the Palazzo Mocenigo, located on the Grand Canal on the stretch between Piazza San Marco and the Rialto Bridge. His household staff increased in proportion with the size of his palace and reached 14. In the palace, he also kept a menagerie of animals: two monkeys, two dogs, a fox and various birds, not caged but free to roam the rooms.

Apart from visiting with a few English friends and pursuing his innumerable conquests, Byron did not have many Venetian friends. He loved riding his horses at the Lido with his friend Hobhouse, who had also accompanied him on an earlier trip to Spain, Albania, Greece and Turkey in 1809-1811 (after Byron’s death, Hobhouse returned to England, became a Member of Parliament, and a baron).

During the warm season, Byron liked to swim. One early summer day in 1818, Venetians sauntering along the Grand Canal were treated to a curious sight. A stylishly dressed man coming out of a palace at the water’s edge, dived in, cravat and all, and started to swim away. Was the man a nut? Drunk? Neither: it was Lord Byron taking a shortcut on his way home.

In June of 1818, as he had done in May 1810 when he swam across the Hellespont in Turkey, he engaged in a swimming endurance race (against Angelo Mengaldo and Alexander Scott, a rich Scottish bachelor residing in Venice) from the Lido to the Piazza San Marco. He won. A few days later, with English Consul General Richard Hoppner as a timekeeper, the three raced again from the Lido to Piazza San Marco and continued down the length of the Grand Canal, a distance of four and half miles. They started from the Lido at about 4:30 PM; Scott and Byron left Mengaldo behind about 500 yards by the time they reached the mouth of the Grand Canal, and Byron won easily when the exhausted Scott climbed out of the water half-way through the length of the Grand Canal. Byron proudly told Hobhouse, “I swam from Lido right to the end of the Grand Canal, including its whole length… I was in the sea from half past four till a quarter past 8 without touching or resting.” Naturally, he also added the claim that he’d had sex twice that day.

Despite the physical exercise, the unruly life was taking its toll on the health of the 30-year old Byron and a visitor to Venice reported that, “…he looked 40. His face had become pale, bloated, and sallow.” Byron himself was aware of his declining physical health, but, as he told Hobhouse, he had no regrets, “At thirty-one, so few years, months, days remain, that ‘Carpe diem’ is not enough…. I can not repent me (I try very often) so much of anything I have done, as of anything I have left undone.”

In March 1818, Shelley with his (now) wife, Mary Goodwin, and Claire Clairmont, with Byron’s daughter Allegra, arrived in Italy. Shelley invited Byron to come and see the child. Byron, however, declined to do so, fearing a new entanglement with Claire. Instead, he requested that only the child and her nurse, but not Claire, be brought to Venice. At first, Allegra lived in the Mocenigo Palace with her father, but the child, frightened by the many animals and confused by the many women visitors, was not at ease and showed it. Byron then arranged for Allegra to live with the English Consul General and his wife, and he paid them for the assistance.

In 1819, Byron had also begun to attend the literary and artistic salon of Countess Marina Querini Benzoni, a formidable woman, who was then 61. During her youth, Benzoni was a beautiful blonde, and in 1788 she had inspired poet Antonio Maria Lamberti to write the famous Venetian poem La Biondina in Gondoleta (The Pert Blond in the Gondola) after he had observed her sleeping in a gondola by moonlight. Musicians Mauro Giuliani, Ludwig von Beethoven, Ferdinand Paer, Reynaldo Hahn, Johann Mayr, and others, later set the poem to music. The most famous version, still sung in Venice, is that of Johann Simon Mayr , a German composer who had settled in Bergamo and became the teacher of opera composer Gaetano Donizetti.

In April 1818, Byron was a guest at the Palazzo Benzoni (now a hotel near the Rialto Bridge), when he met for the second time Teresa Gamba Guiccioli, a 19-year-old countess who was visiting from Ravenna with her 57 years old husband. Byron had met her previously but had not taken particular notice of her. Now, however, he found her extremely attractive and seeing that the feeling was mutual, asked to meet her privately the next day. Thus began Byron’s longest relationship.

Percy Bysshe Shelley

Percy Bysshe Shelley

Teresa Gamba Guiccioli was the daughter of Count Ruggero Gamba, a noble liberal patriot from the Romagna region, then part of the Papal States. Until the age of 16, nuns had educated her. She was rather short of stature, intelligent, lively and beautiful. She had blue eyes, flowing hair the color of gold, and perfect alabaster skin. In 1816, she had married the wealthy and powerful Count Alexander Guiccioli more than 40 years her senior, who overlooked the fact that she did not bring a large dowry. Count Guiccioli had been previously married twice. His first wife, a rich widow, had died right after making a new will in his favor. The second, by whom he already had seven children before they had married, had died suddenly at home while he was at the theater.

A businessman, perhaps involved in illegality, Guiccioli had once been imprisoned in Castel Sant’Angelo in Rome. Conveniently, unknown assassins killed the main witness against him and soon after he was released from prison on bail. It was said that Count Guiccioli was “an expert in seduction,” and many believed that he treated his young wife as he would treat a slave. This is probably an exaggeration, but he certainly would have found it pleasurable for his vanity and sex life to have such a young thing as a wife.

The two lovers, Byron and Teresa, were able to continue their tempestuous affair in Venice for four days before the Count became suspicious and decided to return to Ravenna with his wife. However, he invited Byron to visit him in Ravenna when he could.

After their departure, Byron was not able to communicate with Teresa, although the lovers had developed a system of exchanging letters using one of Teresa’s former housekeepers and a defrocked priest. The difficulty was caused by the fact that the Guicciolis could not return directly to Ravenna, but had to stop along the way as Teresa felt ill and had a miscarriage. The father of stillborn baby was not her husband, but a former Napoleonic officer and poet, Count Cristofero Ferri. The two had started this relationship, after Teresa’s marriage, during a visit she had made to Pesaro.

Apparently, Count Guiccioli had decided to close an eye to his wife’s behavior with Byron for two reasons: he was planning to borrow a large sum of money from Byron (Byron ultimately declined to lend donjuanit to him), and he wanted to be appointed honorary British vice-consul for Romagna, thinking that diplomatic status would immunize him from potential prosecution by the authorities for his shady business activities. Byron tried his best to help him with this, but the appointment never came about, since Byron’s name did not carry influence in the British government.

On June 1, 1819, Byron left Venice to reach Teresa in Ravenna. Count Guiccioli remained friendly with him and the love affair was allowed to continue undisturbed. For a while Byron lived in a seedy hotel near the Guiccioli’s residence, but in August he was invited to relocate temporarily to the ground floor of Palazzo Guiccioli – a very convenient arrangement for the lovers.

After Byron’s return to Venice, Count Guiccioli even allowed Teresa to travel and stay with Byron at their mainland Venetian villa, and subsequently in his Venetian palace, until in October 1819 he traveled to Venice to reclaim his wife. Then, as Teresa became seriously ill, the Count again invited Byron to return to Ravenna, but this time Byron moved in as a renter on the Guiccioli palace’s third floor. Since he viewed the move as more than temporary, his Venetian mini-zoo moved with him: six dogs, a badger, two cats, a falcon, a fox, a crow, and two old monkeys.

This arrangement continued until Teresa’s father, Count Ruggero Gamba, applied to the Pope for a legal separation of his daughter from Count Guiccioli. This was granted, the only such action during Pius VII’s pontificate. She then moved with her family to the countryside while Byron continued to stay as tenant in the Guiccioli’s palace.

Byron still visited Teresa in the countryside occasionally, and helped Count Gamba and his son Pietro Gamba when they became involved in the early conspiratorial movement for Italian independence, known as the Carbonari. Byron admitted in a letter to a friend that he had been stockpiling firearms and ammunition in his apartment, thought to be safer from search by the Pontifical police. In December 1820, the commander of the local army barrack was shot to death in front of Byron’s residence, and posters in Ravenna called for Byron’s murder. The authorities kept him under surveillance and when the planned Carbonari insurrection failed in February 1821, they exiled the Gambas, hoping that Byron would follow them and leave the Pontifical State. The Gamba family moved to Tuscany and settled first in Florence, then in Pisa.

Byron, still living at Palazzo Guiccioli, was unable to cope with the four-year-old Allegra, who was then staying with him. In March 1821, he boarded her in a convent at Bagnocavallo, some 12 miles from Ravenna, refusing to let her go to her mother, who was again in Italy with Mary and Percy Shelley. Byron never visited his child at the convent, even though, with the help of the nuns, who doted on her, she wrote her father a heartbreaking short letter in Italian, Asking for a visit: “My dear Papa. It being fair time, I should like so much a visit from my Papa as I have many wishes to satisfy. Won’t you come to please your Allegrina who loves you so?” Byron never responded to the letter. The following winter Allegra got sick, and despite the best care of three doctors and the nuns, died of typhus or malarial fever on April 20.

childeharoldspilgrimageByron did not go to Bagnocavallo even then. He had the body embalmed and sent to England for burial in a church at Harrow and ordered that a commemorative tablet be placed on her tomb. The church rector, aghast that such an immoral and despised name as Byron would appear in his precincts, refused the child’s burial inside the church. The remains were inhumed, minus the commemorative tablet, under the floor of the church’s south porch. Meantime, in late October 1821, Byron had also left Ravenna to join Teresa Guiccioli at Pisa. He left some sick, old animals behind in the care of his local banker: a goat with a broken leg, an ugly dog, the badger, the two monkeys, and a heron.

In Pisa, Shelley had rented for him Casa Lanfranchi, a palace on the banks of the Arno, with which Byron was delighted. Again, Teresa lived with him, but his ardor for her was diminishing and he spent more and more time with Shelley, Shelley’s friend, Edward John Trelawny, a Cornish adventurer, and Lieutenant Edward William (who would drown with Shelley in July 1822).

In March 1822, at Pisa, in defense of Shelley (who had been knocked down by the man), Byron’s servant Vincenzo Papi wounded Sergeant Major Masi with a pitchfork. The legal complication that arose dragged on for months and ultimately the case was dismissed, but this affair increased tension within the Byron household. Meantime, a new family now joined Byron and the Shelleys at Pisa, moving into Byron’s Casa Lanfranchi. Shelley and Byron had jointly decided to start publishing a literary journal and had invited their friend Leigh Hunt and his family to join them in Pisa to collaborate in this venture.

Leigh Hunt

Leigh Hunt

Leigh Hunt was a good poet and, starting in 1805, became a well-known theater and literary critic of substance, taste, and integrity. Poet John Keats dedicated his first book of verses to him and Lord Byron, with whom he was well acquainted, occasionally sent him pheasants and called him later “The Wit in the Dungeon.”

Once in Pisa, the Hunts moved in with Byron, on the ground floor of Casa Lanfranchi and Byron soon became annoyed and upset with their unruly children and Mary Ann Hunt’s loud, hostile, sharp criticisms of everything Italian and of Byron himself. The now six children were not only impertinent and brash, but also destructive. Byron, who called them, among other names, “Yahoos,” tied his bulldog at the head of the stairway leading to his second floor apartment and trained him to snarl at the approaching children or their goat to prevent them from entering his quarters.

Another issue also upset Byron. One of Byron’s servants, “lent” to Teresa’s family, was asked to fetch some water, but refused. Pietro Gamba, Teresa’s brother, then ordered the man to obey and a fracas ensued. Gamba was wounded slightly on his arm by a knife and pulled his pistol out to threaten the servant. Unfortunately, the police were called and the Gambas, who were being allowed to stay in Tuscany at the sufferance of the authorities, were ordered to leave the region within four days.

In September 1822, Byron who had stayed behind in Pisa also decided to move to Genoa and thus be near Teresa and away from the Hunt brood. Mary Shelley (now a widow), who had preceded him to Genoa, had found him a villa to rent, Casa Saluzzo, and he and the Gambas moved in it. The abandoned Hunt, however, who depended on Byron’s money for their livelihood, followed him to Genoa, and rented their own villa. Thus Byron found himself the source of support, at least partially, for the Hunt family, the exiled Gambas, and the two widows left by Shelley’s drowning: Mary Shelley and Jane Williams.

In this atmosphere, Byron’s disposition, always fickle and moody, was especially grim, and he felt himself trapped. He even found Teresa Guiccioli’s care and love a burden and in a black mood even contemplated suicide, asking his doctor’s opinion on “the best and quickest poison.”

Soon, however, Byron’s mood lifted as he embarked on a project to help liberate Greece from the oppression of the Turkish Ottoman Empire. Greece had been under Ottoman rule since 1453 and became an independent country only after a long war (1821-30). Byron took leave of everyone and sent Teresa to stay with her family, which had been allowed to return to Ravenna. On June 18, 1823, he leased on English ship for two months, the Hercules, and started to provision it for the trip to Greece. The ship sailed from Genoa on July 16, 1823 and arrived in Metaxata, Greece, on August 3. Teresa’s brother, Pietro Gamba, Edward Trelawny, and Byron’s valet William Fletcher, Dr. Francesco Bruno, another of Byron’s servants named Giovanni Battista Falcieri, known as Tita, Antonio Lega Zambelli, Byron’s house manager, Vincenzo Papi, his coachman, and others, accompanied him.

Soon after his arrival in Greece, Byron made contact with the provisional revolutionary Greek government and by the time he moved to Missilonghi on January 4, 1824, the government had agreed to give him command of as many as three thousand volunteers. They expected him, however, to pay them out of his own funds and the soldiers, believing that he was extremely wealthy, sought to be paid more than other soldiers. Disputes were frequent, and not much accomplished militarily. Threats of mutiny and peril to Byron’s personal safety became real and he even hired some ten German mercenaries as bodyguards for protection from the troop he allegedly commanded, and had cannons placed at the gate of his residence.

On April 9, while returning to his villa, he was caught in a torrential rain and became seriously ill. He did not rally and died on April 19, attended by Teresa’s brother, Pietro Gamba, and three doctors. The cause of death may have been uremia, marsh fever, rheumatic fever, or typhus, aggravated by the bleeding the doctors performed. Trelawny, who was away, returned on April 24 and put himself in charge of funeral arrangements. The first thought was to bury Byron in Athens, but soon this plan died and the remains, preserved in spirits, were carried on the British ship The Florida back to England, arriving in London on July 5. The funeral procession through London was seen by Mary Shelley, who had gone back home, and by Lady Carolina Lamb, who, at first unaware of what she was seeing, suddenly fainted. Since he was denied burial in the poet’s corner of Westminster Abbey or in St Paul’s, he was carried to the family vault, in the village near the home he had sold, his body finally resting only five miles away from his ancestors, his mother, and one of his dogs.

A tumultuous life had thus ended. Unlike Giacomo Casanova, who wrote his memoirs in impotency and old age, or the Marquis De Sade, who wrote them out of boredom while jailed in the Bastille, Byron had written his story, both in verses and in his letters, as he rode the world’s stage and tried to balance precariously the call of his intellect with the longings of his heart, and the needs of his sexuality.

On June 15, 1938, 114 years after Byron had been buried, Canon Thomas Gerrard Barber opened the burial vault, located in the crypt of Hucknall Parish Church, and the contents of Byron’s casket were observed. According to the three men present, the remains were still in a good state of preservation, and the only parts of the body in skeletal form were the forearms, hands, and lower legs. The rest of the body was quite intact, with skin of a grayish-bronze color. One witness even looked at the deceased’s sexual organ, which, he said, evinced “quite abnormal development.” Canon Barber claimed that he had been told that the remains were not in the casket, and that within the vault was a medieval crypt, which had not been explored. After saying a brief prayer, the casket and the vault were resealed. The following year, Barber wrote and published a small pamphlet, Byron and Where He Is Buried, giving an account of his undertaking, saying, in part, “Reverently, very reverently, I raised the lid, and before my eyes lay the embalmed body of Byron in as perfect condition as when it was placed in the coffin one hundred and fourteen years ago. His features and hair easily recognizable from the portraits with which I was so familiar, the serene, almost happy expression on his face made a profound impression on me.”

BarberByronandwhereheisburiedIn 1969, nearly a century and a half after his death, Byron got official recognition in the pantheon of great English writers in Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey, when a commemorative plaque was placed there at the behest of the Poetry Society. This was the fourth time the request had been made, the last having been on the centenary of Byron’s death in 1924. Then, the Dean of Westminster, Bishop Herbert E. Ryle, had justified his refusal to grant the Poetry Society request by writing: “Byron, partly by his own openly dissolute life and partly by the influence of licentious verse, earned a worldwide reputation for immorality among English-speaking people.  A man who outraged the laws of our Divine Lord, and whose treatment of women violated the Christian principles of purity and honor, should not be commemorated in Westminster Abbey.” This rebuff had drawn a response in the London Times by a group of prominent Englishmen, including Rudyard Kipling and Thomas Hardy and former Prime Ministers Arthur Balfour, Herbert Asquith, and David Lloyd George, but the bishop did not relent.

Late in his life, Byron became a prematurely aged, disappointed man, no longer believing in the possibility of societal improvement and expressing regret about his life. In one of his last poems, written on January 22, 1824 on his 36th birthday, he had a premonition of doom and the finality of death:

“My days are in yellow leaf
The flowers and fruits of love are gone
The worm, the canker, and the grief
Are mine alone…
…Seek out – less often sought than found,
A soldier’s grave – for thee the best,
Then look around and choose the ground,
And take thy rest.

Byron loved Italy and in 1821 he published a book of four cantos, written in terza rima, a pretty hard thing to do in English because of the paucity of rhyming words. In The Prophecy of Dante, he put these words into the mouth of the Italian poet:

Oh! My own beauteous land! So long laid low,
So long the grave of thy own children’s hopes,
When there is but required a single blow
To break the chain, yet—yet the Avenger stops,
And Doubt and Discord step ‘twixt thine and thee,
And join their strength to that which with thee copes;
What is there wanting then to set thee free,
And show thy beauty in its fullest light?
To make the Alps impassable; and we,
Her Sons, may do this with one deed—Unite.
(Canto The Second, 136-145)

prophecyofdanteAn extremely prolific and inspired writer, Byron’s poetry reflected his personality: selfish, hedonistic, brilliant, and often superb. Apart from Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, his supreme masterpiece was Don Juan, a witty picaresque versified novel tracing the adventures of a libertine.

Both because of his romantic life and death, his poetry, and the voluminous correspondence Byron conducted with friends, lovers, and publishers–most of it preserved for posterity–his influence on letters and the arts has been second only to Shakespeare. Among the many he inspired, were the French painter Delacroix, the poet Alphonse Lamartine, novelist Benjamin Disraeli (a future British Prime Minister), George Sand, the Bronte sisters, Oscar Wilde, the Russian poet Puskin, composers Hector Berlioz, Robert Schumann, Franz Liszt, Gaetano Donizetti, composer Virgil Thompson, and novelist James Joyce. Even Wolfgang Goethe, the supreme German poet, greatly admired Byron’s poetry and thought him to be superior to himself, saying that Byron was “the greatest talent of our century.” For his London publisher John Murray Byron was “Wild, audacious, rebellious, … half mad by nature; a creature made to tempt and to be tempted, to seduce and to fall, about whom there was but one certainty, that he was irreclaimable.”

During his lifetime fellow poet John Keats, a sensitive soul who preferred calm to the audacious stormy behavior of Byron, compared him to Polyphemus in his 1816 poem Sleep and Poetry and wrote:

……………………yet in truth we’ve had
Strange thunders from the potency of song;
Mingled indeed with what is sweet and strong,
From majesty: but in clear truth the themes
Are ugly clubs, the Poets Polyphemes
Disturbing the grand sea. A drainless shower
Of light is poesy; ’tis the supreme of power; …
…  But strength alone though of the Muses born
Is like a fallen angel: trees uptorn,
Darkness, and worms, and shrouds, and sepulchers
Delight it; for it feeds upon the burrs
And thorns of life; forgetting the great end
Of poesy, that it should be a friend
To soothe the cares, and lift the thoughts of man.

The Victorians were divided about Byron. Some, like Matthew Arnold liked him and wrote:

When Byron’s eyes were shut in death,
We bow’d our head and held our breath.
He taught us little; but our soul
Had felt him like the thunder’s roll.
With shivering heart the strife we saw
Of passion with eternal law;
And yet with reverential awe
We watch’d the fount of fiery life
Which served for that Titanic strife.
(Memorial Verses April 1850)

Others, like Algernon Swinburne, picked on what he considered Byron’s lack of poetical technical prowess, while the majority hid their eyes in a pious hypocritical rejection of the poet’s egotism, disorderly life, rebellion against society’s niceties, and lack of morals.

For Byron, the drama had ended appropriately in the unselfish, noble pursuit of Greek independence. It continued, however, for many other characters in the play. Count Piero Gamba, Teresa’s brother, returned to Greece became a colonel in the Greek army and, like Byron, died of fever there in 1827. Carolina Lamb died in 1828, Byron’s stepsister and lover, Augusta Leigh, inherited his fortune, spent it all paying the gambling debts of her husband and son, and died penniless in 1852. Byron’s wife, Annabella, kept alive the memory of the better angels of Byron’s nature, but at the end destroyed his reputation and died in 1860. Her daughter, Ada, who as we have mentioned was a prominent mathematical genius, married a gambling addict, became poor paying his debt, and died in 1852 at the age of 36, like her father.

Teresa Guiccioli, after Byron died in 1824, reconciled with her husband, Count Alessandro Guiccioli. However, she left him again soon after, and had love affairs with British inventor and politician Henry Fox, and French poet Alphonse Lamartine. Later, at the age of 47, she married wealthy French Marquis Hilarie Etienne De Boissy, who allegedly often introduced her as “my wife, the former mistress of Lord Byron.” She also kept a full-length painting of Byron in her apartment and apparently talked to it. Teresa became a widow in 1866, moved back to Florence shortly after and died at age 72 in 1873. Several of her books of on Byron overlook all his faults and portray him as a genius and a gentleman.

Leigh Hunt, who had taken Byron’s money while he lived, remained in Italy and lived in Florence until 1825. He continued taking money from Shelley’s widow and wrote a book critical of Byron. He also edited a number of literary journals and helped writers such as Dante Rossetti, Alfred Tennyson, and Charles Dickens. Later Dickens lampooned him by picturing him as Harold Walpole in Bleak House. He lived with his wife Mary Ann, who continued to have children (13 in all). Mary Ann, Hunt’s wife, eventually became an alcoholic and died in 1859.

Edward John Trelawny, the adventurer who followed Byron to Greece, carried on the fight for that country and lived to see its independence. He married the sister of Greek revolutionary leader but when he returned to London, he married for the third time. Restless as always, in 1833 he traveled to the US and almost drowned attempting to swim across Niagara Falls. He wrote two books, Adventures of a Younger Son (1835) and Recollections of Shelley and Byron (1858). He remarried for the fourth time and died in England in 1881. As we have mentioned, is buried at the English Protestant cemetery in Rome, next to Percy Bysshe Shelley’s tomb.

____
Luciano Mangiafico is a retired U.S. diplomat who served, among many postings abroad, as consul in Milan and Consul General in Palermo.

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