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I WENT to Italy late in the autumn of 1821, for the benefit of my health. Lord Byron, accompanied by Mr. Rogers as far as Florence, had passed on a few days before me, and was already at Pisa when I arrived.
His travelling equipage was rather a singular one, and afforded a strange catalogue for the Dogana: seven servants, five carriages, nine horses, a monkey, a bull-dog and a mastiff, two cats, three pea-fowls and some hens, (I do not know whether I have classthèm in order of rank,) formed part of his live stock; these, and all his books, consisting of a very large library of modern works, (for he bought all the best that came out,) together with a vast quantity of furniture, might well be termed, with Cæsar, “impediments."
I had long formed a wish to see and be acquainted with Lord Byron; but his known refusal at that time to receive the visits of strangers, even of some who had brought him letters of introduction from the most intimate friend he had, and a prejudice excited against his own countrymen by a late insult, would have deterred me from seeking an interview with him, had not the proposal come from himself, in consequence of his hearing Shelley speak of me."
20th NOVEMBER.-" This is the Lung' Arno: he has hired the Lanfranchi palace for a year. It is one of those marble piles that seem built for eternity, whilst the family whose name it bears no longer exists,” said Shelley, as we entered a hall that seemed built for giants. “I remember the lines in the Inferno,” said I: “a Lanfranchi was one of the persecutors of Ugolino.” “ The same," answered Shelley; "you will see a picture of Ugolino and his sons in his room. Fletcher, his valet, is as superstitious a3 his master, and says the house is haunted, so that he cannot sleep for rumbling noises overhead, which he compares to the rolling of bowls. No wonder; old Lanfranchi's ghost is unquiet, and walks at night.” • The palace was of such size, that Lord Byron only occupied the first floor; and at the top of the staircase leading to it was the English bull-dog, whose chain was long enough to guard the door, and prevent the entrance of strangers; he, however, kuier Shelley, growled, and let us pass. In the anti-room we found several servants in livery, and Fletcher, (whom Shelley mentioned, and of whom I shall have occasion to speak,) who had been in his service from the time he left Harrow. “Like many old servants, he is a privileged person,” whispered Shelley. “Don Juan had not a better Leporello, for imitating his master. He says that he is a Laurel struck by a Metre, and when in Greece, remarked upon one of the bas-reliefs of the Parthenon, · La! what mantelpieces these would make, my Lord!'” When we were announced, we found his Lordship writing. His reception was frank and kind; he took me cor. dially by the hand, and said:
“You are a relation and schoolfellow of Shelley's -we do not meet as strangers—you must allow me to continue my letter, on account of the post. Here's something for you to read, Shelley ; (giving him part of his MS. of Heaven and Earth;') tell me what you think of it.”
During the few minutes that Lord Byron was finishing his letter, I took an opportunity of narrowly observing him, and drawing his portrait in my mind.* Thorwaldsen's bust is too thin-necked and young for Lord Byron. None of the engravings gave me the least idea of him. I saw a man of about five feet seven or eight, apparently forty years of age; as was said of Milton, he barely escaped being short and thick. His face was fine, and the lower part symmetrically moulded; for the lips and chin had that curve ed and definite outline that distinguishes Grecian beauty. His forehead was high, and his temples broad; and he had a paleness in his complexion, almost to wanness. His hair, thin and fine, had almost become gray, and waved in natural and graceful curls over his head, that was assimilating itself
* Being with him, day after day, some time afterwards, whilst he was sitting to Bertolini, the Florentine sculptor, for his bust, I had an opportunity of analyzing his features niore critically, but found nothing to alter in my portrait. Bertolini's is an admirable likeness, at least was so in the clay model. I have not seen it since it was copied in marble, nor have I got a cast; he promised Bertolini should send me one. Lord Byron prided himself on his neck; and it must be confessed that his head was worthy of being placed on it. Bertolini destroyed his ébauches more than once before he could please himself. When he had finished, Lord Byron said,
“ It is the lasttime I sit to sculptor or painter.” This was on the 4th of January, 1822.
fast to the " bald first Cæsar's.” He allowed it to grow longer behind than it is accustomed to be worn, and at that time had mustachios, which were not sufficiently dark to be becoming. In criticising his features it might, perhaps, be said that his eyes were placed too near his nose, and that one was rather smaller than the other; they were of a grayish brown, but of a peculiar clearness, and when animated, possessed a fire which seemed to look through and penetrate the thoughts of others, while they marked the inspirations of his own. His teeth were small, regular, and white; these, I afterwards found, he took great pains to preserve.*
I expected to discover that he had a club, perhaps a cloven foot; but it would have been difficult to have distinguished one from the other, either in size or in form.
On the whole, his figure was manly, and his countenance handsome and prepossessing, and very expressive ; and the familiar ease of his conversation soon made me perfectly at home in his society. Our first interview was marked with a cordiality and confidence that flattered while it delighted me, and I felt anxious for the next day, in order that I might repeat my visit.
When I called on his Lordship at two o'clock, he had just left his bed-room, and was at breakfast, if it can be called one. It consisted of a cup of strong green tea, without milk or sugar, and an egg, of
* For this purpose he used tobacco when he first went into the open air ; and he told me he was in the habit of grinding his teeth in his sleep, to prevent which he was forced to put a nap. kin between them.
which he ate the yolk raw. I observed the abstemiousness of his meal.
.“ My digestion is weak; I am too bilious," said he, 6 to eat more than ouce a-day, and generally live on vegetables. To be sure, I drink two bottles of wine at dinner, but they form only a vegetable diet. Just now I live on claret and soda-water. You are just come from Geneva, Shelley tells me. I passed the best part of the summer of 1816 at the Campagna Diodati, and was very nearly passing this last there. I went so far as to write to Hentsh, the banker; but Shelley, when he came to visit me at Ravenna, gave me such a flattering account of Pisa, that I changed my mind. Then it is troublesome to travel so far with so much live and dead stock as I do; and I don't like to leave behind me any of my pets that have been accumulating since I came on the Continent.* One cannot trust to · strangers to take care of them. You will see at the farmer's some of my pea-fowls 'en pension. Fletcher tells me that they are almost as bad fellowtravellers as the monkey,t which I will show you."
Here he led the way to a room, where, after playing with and caressing the creature for some time, he proposed a game of billiards.
I brought the conversation back on Switzerland and his travels, and asked him if he had been in Germany? * He says afterwards, in “Don Juan," canto X, stanza 50:
"He had a kind of inclination, or Weakness, for what most people deem mere vermin,
Live animals." * He afterwards bought another monkey in Pisa, in the street. because he saw it ill-used.