Posted by ricardo marcenaro | Posted in Poetry: The Life of Lord Byron - By Alexander Leighton - Bio - Links to more Byron | Posted on 7:50
By Alexander Leighton
George Gordon Lord Byron was descended of a very ancient and illustrious family. The celebrated Commodore Byron, an account of whose shipwrecks once delighted so much the readers of adventures, was his grandfather. His father was Captain Byron, an extravagant and licentious man, who, after squandering his own fortune, married Miss Gordon of Gight, in Aberdeenshire, and got with her not only the property to which she was heiress, but a considerable sum of money, all of which he soon spent. The poet was born in London on the 22d of January 1788, two years after which his mother, in consequence of the death of her husband, left England, and took up her residence at Aberdeen -- a place suited to her now scanty resources, which were not supplemented by her husband's uncle, the then Lord Byron, a retired and gloomy man, of an ungenerous spirit.
For eight years the poet resided with his mother; and here began that treatment which, acting on a generous but irritable mind, laid the foundation of a character marked by so many virtues, and so many offences against good taste and public morals. His mother, whose life had been soured by the extravagant conduct of her husband, acted towards the boy -- who was not only of a weak bodily habit, but deformed in one, if not both, of his feet -- as if she had predetermined to make his moral nature of that anomalous character it afterwards exhibited, the means she employed being indulgence, not always deserved, and severity, as seldom merited. These cherished his natural hastiness of temper, as well as pampered his proud wilfulness, until the one hastened to irascibility, and the other to a selfish defiance of every one about him. All the good tendencies of his fine nature were thus weakened and misdirected, and all the bad ones were aggravated and deepened. To this was added a constant change of teachers, as well as methods of teaching, without reference to the abilities or inclinations of the boy, and the consequence resulted in an almost absolute indifference to all studies.
We have some glimpses of his boyhood while at Aberdeen. He was never forward in his school work, and was always far down in the class at the day-school to which he had been sent; but while thus indifferent to the exercises of the head, he was even now, in his very boyhood, shewing how strong was the emotional element in his nature. A deep impression was made upon his heart when no more than eight years of age by a young girl of the name of Mary Duff. So genuine had been this early love, that even in 1813, when he was twenty-five years of age, he confesses that the news of Mary Duff's marriage was like "a thunderstroke, -- it nearly choked me, to the horror of my mother, and the astonishment and incredulity of almost everybody." About the same time, on recovering from scarlet fever, he was sent for fresh air to a farmhouse, near Ballater. The house has become famous; and the bed where the poet lay is still pointed out as Byron's bed. It was here probably that he was impressed with the grandeur of Highland scenery; for a short walk sufficed to bring him to dark Lochnagar, that mountain which inspired almost the earliest, certainly the best, of the early efforts of his muse. It is even said, in praise of the overlaid aspirations of his better nature, that the peace and innocence that reigned among these grand displays of nature haunted him amidst the fevered excitement of a conventional, if not dissipated life. In the "Island," a poem written not long before his death, he lets slip some thoughts which have reference to these early worshippings of his better nature:
"But 'twas not all long ages' lore, nor all
/Their/ nature held me in their thrilling thrall;
The infant rapture still survived the boy,
And Lochnagar with Ida look'd o'er Troy."
His mother's regular system of spoiling continued till his eleventh year, when the death of his granduncle made him the possessor of a noble title and a large property; but it did not end here. Unfortunately, the mother was left by the guardians to take her own way with the now young lord; and as if his good fortune had inflamed her desire to perfect the work she had so early begun, she had recourse to new methods, -- one of which consisted in subjecting him to fruitless operations for the purpose, no doubt well designed, of curing his lameness, but the effect of which was only to sink deeper into his mind the bitter regret of his infirmity, and to increase that misanthropy which had been gradually rising out of asperity. It has been even said, we hope untruly, that his mother was in the habit of taunting him with this unfortunate deformity, -- conduct so cruel and gratuitous, as to require a better proof than it has yet received.
On his removal to an excellent private school at Dulwich, under Dr Glennie, it was very soon seen what benefit resulted from a cessation of the mother's authority, for here he manifested much improvement both in temper and industry; and had it not been for the still constant interferences from home, the world might have been saved the pain of seeing genius clouded by moral infirmities. Even here, long visits to home broke in upon his studies, and sent him back to begin of new a course of amendment.
On his next removal, to Harrow, new hopes were inspired; and though he proved himself often rebellious, and a not very careful student, especially of the classics, he went through a great deal of miscellaneous reading. Then, on all hands, he was admired for his generosity, and courted for his spirit. It was in 1803, while spending the vacation at Nottingham, near Newstead, and before he had reached his eighteenth year, that he met a young lady, Miss Chaworth, the heiress of Annesley, an extensive estate in the neighbourhood of his patrimonial mansion. His senior by two years, and gifted with both beauty and intelligence, she was calculated to have redeemed him from his errors without abating the enthusiasm of his genius; but the young lady, besides being engaged, saw nothing in him to attract her, or even stir her sympathy. Instead of regarding him as one worthy of being a candidate for her hand, she looked upon him as a mere schoolboy. Byron was not slow to see this, and his eyes were still more effectually opened when it was reported to him that she had used the expression, "Do you think I would care anything for that lame boy?" Yet all this did not cure his love -- if it did not, according to the common rule, increase it. Though there is said to have been some romance in this attachment, founded on the fact of a near relative of the young lady having been killed by the prior Lord Byron in a duel, it seems to be the general opinion that his affection was not only not a mere flitting feeling, but perhaps more generous and ardent than any love he ever entertained afterwards; but it seems to have been Byron's fate to have had all outward powers and agencies ever ready to intercept his return to moderation and prudence. Of this lady he says, --
"There was but one beloved face on earth,
And that was shining on him; he had look'd
Upon it till it could not pass away;
He had no breath, no being, but in hers:
She was his voice; he did not speak to her,
But trembled on her words: she was his sight,
For his eye followed hers, and saw with hers,
Which colour'd all his objects: -- he had ceased
To live within himself; she was his life."
In another part of the same poem he alludes to her melancholy fate -- derangement: --
The Lady of his love; -- Oh, she was changed,
As by the sickness of the soul; her mind
Had wander'd from its dwelling, and her eyes,
They had not their own lustre, but the look
Which is not of the earth; she was become
The queen of a fantastic realm."
The latter disappointment, or this love all on one side, tended still further to confirm the early tendency to misanthropy which had its beginnings in his deformity and his mother's treatment. Yet so flexible is human nature -- drawing strength from weakness -- that his genius, as Goethe says, was pain. Even he himself admits that the very misfortune he so often regretted was the source of the power which he wielded, though probably it is more true that it only affected the direction of that power. In "The Deformed Transformed" he says, --
"Deformity is daring.
It is its essence to o'ertake mankind
By heart and soul, and make itself the equal --
Ay, the superior of the rest. There is
A spur in its halt movements, to become
All that the others cannot, in such things
As still are free to both, to compensate
For stepdame Nature's avarice at first."
Entered at Trinity College, Cambridge, in the autumn of 1805, he resided there for two years. It is admitted that, when the humour seized him, he read avariciously, and thus acquired a great amount of varied and stray knowledge; but in the midst of these acquisitions, which he sometimes poured forth, changed by the alchymy of his rising genius, so as to produce the impression that he was a young man of no ordinary promise, he was eccentric, profuse, and, in school language, idle. Signally a fast young man, he differed from his associates only in being often clouded in melancholy, and probably struggling with aspirations. He never loved either Cambridge or its learning, while all the self-will of his nature was arrayed against the laws and restrictions of the university, as well as those who administered them. The ecclesiastical authority was, in particular, distasteful to him, for already he was seized with that spirit of scepticism which is ever allied to misanthropic tendencies, and this, again, brought down upon him the significant suspicion of his teachers. The dissociation from studies was in him another name for an utter resignation of both mind and body to his impulses. The fervency of his nature, not yet gratified by poetry, got relief in swimming and boxing; but here again his evil fate was in the way, for as his deformity had stood between him and his love, so now it militated against his success in competition, not that he was not both energetic and expert, but that he felt he might have been triumphant had he been more auspiciously formed. And it was not this drawback alone that he had to lament; which, if he had treated it as Scott did his similar infirmity, might have been borne with resignation and without loss, but he began at this time to shew tokens of obesity, another evil which, as an infliction unmerited, he resented while he struggled against.
In the midst of all this he rushed into poetry, which, however, was only a continuation of a tendency already exhibited, for while at Dr Glennie's at Dulwich he had struck off pieces to his cousin, Miss Margaret Parker. This he considered to have been his first effort; but his nurse, Mary Gray, who was not likely to have forgotten so important an exploit in the strange youth, represents him as having discharged a satire at an old lady who had angered him in some way. His efforts at Cambridge, however, had all the fire and rashness of a first burst. The pieces circulated from hand to hand before any were printed; but at length a small part of them were put to press. The first copy was presented to the Rev. John Becher, Southwell, whom he considered his friend, as no doubt he was; and probably that gentleman gave evidence of his sincerity in expostulating with him on the unwarranted "luxuriousness of colouring" in one specimen, whereupon the impatient youth instantly ordered the whole stock to be burned. Only two copies remained -- Mr Becher's own, and one that found the way to Edinburgh. A reduced edition appeared in 1807.
Now came the turning point of his life, in the publication of "The Hours of Idleness;" for though the volume itself presented a collection, from the very best of which, such as the beautiful stanzas to "Lochnagar," one would scarcely have ventured to presage the powers reserved for him to exhibit, it was destined to be noticed in the great literary organ of the day, the /Edinburgh Review,/ and to be handled in a manner to rouse the energies of the author. It has been often said that the reviewer had a grudge to satisfy, which was apparent, not only in the harsh treatment of so young an aspirant, but in the very circumstance of taking up so apparently a trifle; and probably, notwithstanding disclamations, there was at least political feeling or democratic ill nature. At any rate, nothing more auspicious could have occurred to Byron, who, the reverse of John Keats, was as unlikely "to die of an article" as he was likely to make the reviewer die of a satire. Anger collected the scattered beginnings of his strength to a centre where it could be felt. Having studied the satirical poets as models, and collected every available bit of gossip floating at the time, he, in 1809, poured forth his wrath, all the warmer for the nursing he had given it, in his "English Bards and Scotch Reviewers." Pointed in its abusive personalities, and contemptuous, without any discrimination, of all the literary characters of the day, this poem exhibited powers which only wanted maturation to achieve very great things, though not so great as he achieved. Yet it is certain that Byron was subsequently ashamed of this satire, not that it was satirical, nor that it was destitute of merit, but rather that the men against whom it was chiefly directed, shewed they had the art of heaping coals of fire on his head. On a copy which he perused long after, he wrote the following words: -- "The binding of this volume is considerably too valuable for its contents. Nothing but the consideration of its being the property of another prevents me from consigning this miserable record of misplaced anger and indiscriminate acrimony to the flames." Yet he was at the time engaged in performing an office of the same kind on human nature in general. The man was probably not changed, except that his love of singularity was increased. It is said that when he read the review he drank three bottles of claret at dinner -- an act probably genuine enough in sincerity, but when he afterwards regretted his revenge, he could ridicule very sacred conventionalities among mankind. Even his own good fortune did not escape his satire, as when, on coming of age, he celebrated the occasion, and some say the anniversary, by dining on eggs and bacon and a bottle of ale, adding, long afterwards, to the reminiscence, "but as neither of them agrees with me, I never use them but on great jubilees, once in four or five years or so."
Such things, and many other eccentricities subsequently recorded -- among the earliest of which was his epitaph on the dog buried at Newstead, wherein he gives the dog a soul and a far higher character than man, the common object of his revilings -- all indicate the prevailing error of his mind, pride shewing itself in singularity. We have used the word misanthropy, but really, as respects Byron, it is altogether misapplied. No man with so susceptible a heart for friendship, and such a relish for the good things of life -- nay, a generosity of soul where his affections pointed out the object, could be said to be a genuine misanthrope. It was altogether with him a stage character. In that garb he had conciliated the people till he became an idol, and falsely supposed, that while his idolaters admired him, they also pitied him for the misfortune of being singular and gloomy. Not but that his soul spurned pity in the common sense, only it was a homage to his fate, and he gloried in being under the special dominion of a power which, like the Titans, he at the same time battled against.
There was another reason why Byron persisted in appearing in an aspect not expressing his true nature. His friends blindly took the young lord for what, in his poetry and juvenile escapades, he declared himself to be. They accordingly began early to stand aloof from him. Even Lord Carlisle, his guardian, fell into this error; nor can we have better evidence of this mistake than the fact, that when Lord Byron took his seat in the House of Lords in 1809, there was no one to introduce him, so there was induced an action and a reaction, all the consequents of a false move, and yet increasing on and on to the time of his death. But perhaps the best evidence we can have of the absolute domination of his love of singularity lies in the fact, that, though he often regretted his imprudences, his regret had always the acerbity of a retaliation against the punishment inflicted by those who suffered from the act regretted.
It was, accordingly, under a feeling of something approaching to disgust, that he resolved upon leaving England, on a two years' absence, with Mr Hobhouse, subsequently Lord Broughton. It was in July 1809 that he left Falmouth on this, as it turned out, poetical pilgrimage, in the course of which he visited the Peninsula, extended his travels to Greece and Turkey, and, with his genius now inflamed by romantic objects, composed in great part the first and second parts of "Childe Harold's Pilgrimage." It may be interesting to trace these wanderings, destined to become, by the publication of the poem in 1812, so famous.
After touching at Lisbon, Cadiz, and Gibraltar and Malta, he arrived at Prevesa in Albania, from which he proceeded on a tour through the provinces of Turkey, arriving at Athens. Here he spent a considerable time examining the monuments of ancient philosophy and freedom, which were afterwards to inspire his muse in her most amiable fit. He lived with the English Vice-Consul, and there met one of his daughters, the celebrated Theresa Macri, so well known as "the Maid of Athens," -- a lady of great beauty, who was afterwards married to Mr Black, a gentleman only known for his possession of so famous a woman, and of great strength of body. Lord Byron subsequently went to Constantinople, where he accomplished the feat of swimming across the Hellespont, professedly in imitation of Leander in his visit to Hero. Of this feat he might very well be proud, as the distance, though direct not more than a mile, is fully three if you count the effect of the currents; and though he did not come back again, it requires to be remembered that he swam for ambition, not for love of a beautiful woman. After all, the task was nothing to what he accomplished afterwards; for, on this occasion, he was only an hour and ten minutes in the water, whereas, in the Grand Canal of Venice, he was four hours and twenty minutes. He returned to Athens in the month of July, and took some excursions in the Morea, his head-quarters being the monument of Lysicrates, or Lantern of Diogenes, -- a building somewhat resembling Dugald Stewart's monument on the Calton Hill of Edinburgh. Here he wrote his satire upon London life, and collected notes for his "Childe Harold."
In this journey the two years expired. In the meantime, his mother, living at Newstead, was under a presentiment that she would never see him again, although the state of her health did not indicate a near dissolution. Yet so it turned out in a manner favourable to mystery, and yet not untrue to her character. It would appear that the very preparations she made for his return, hastened the fulfilment of her augury; for the sight of some upholsterers' bills threw her into such a frenzy of passion, that she expired just as Byron was posting to Newstead. He was only in time to bury her. On the occasion of the funeral, a circumstance occurred which can hardly be accounted for, even by a confirmed love of eccentricity, not less, indeed, than by insanity. He did not accompany the remains of his mother to the vault, but stood at the entrance-door of the mansion, looking with unmeaning eyes at the procession; and no sooner had it disappeared, than, putting on a pair of boxing-gloves, he began a sparring match with a boy-servant, selected on the instant as his antagonist. It is said that if he had not known that this would be recorded, he never would have performed it. Perhaps this may be true, and yet there is a kind of philosophy which would find another cause, if not an excuse. Obedience to grief is natural, but there is a rebellion against what may be called the cruelty of Fate, which is only unnatural, because seldom witnessed. It is quite certain that he lamented bitterly the loss of his parent; for, a few nights before, he was found sitting in the dark by her corpse, and when expostulated with, answered, "O Mrs By., I had but one friend in the world, and she is gone." And about a month afterwards, he is found writing to Mr Murray, "Your letter gives me credit for more acute feelings than I possess; for though I feel tolerably miserable, yet I am at the same time subject to a kind of hysterical merriment, or rather laughter without merriment, which I can neither account for nor conquer." This is an explanation of what appears to be an anomaly, which, in place of being dishonourable to the feelings, however antagonistic to worldly prudence and decorum, may be construed as a weakness overshadowing strength, and producing an abnormal condition of the heart, to which we are witnesses in the case of excitable women every day.
Byron made his first speech in Parliament on 27th February 1812, on the occasion of the Nottingham Frame-breaking Bill; and two days thereafter appeared the two first cantos of "Childe Harold." It was on the success attending this work that he used the well-known words, "I awoke one morning and found myself famous." He was now twenty-four, and at this early age became the most popular poet that perhaps England ever saw, -- and thus like our Burns as regards Scotland. Byron had a style peculiarly his own, and so unlike that of the reigning favourites, Wordsworth and Coleridge, that the people were delighted with a medium of reaching their hearts free from the obscure philosophy of the one, and the dreamy metaphysics of the other. He seemed to liberate them from a bondage as their sympathies found play in his clear language, rapid turns, and penetrating flashes. Nor less did his poetry resemble Scott's metrical romances, whose homeliness, if not often heaviness, contrasted unfavourably with the new poet's stirring flow of affections, which, if more conventional, were fresher and more in accordance with modern habits of both thinking and feeling. Even in his tales which came afterwards, Byron charmed away the admirers of his northern rival, whose popularity waned visibly every day.
In rapid succession now came the beautiful fragment "The Giaour," the less regular "Bride of Abydos," "The Corsair," and its sequel "Lara." During all this period, when his fame culminated, he is represented as being little better than mad; but it was the madness of one who had striven for superiority as a blessing that was to cure his spirit of many ills, and found that his appetite for fame sickened upon what it fed. This is less or more the effect of all ambition; but in Byron it took a strange aspect. On 6th December 1813, appears this entry in his journal: -- "This journal is a relief. When I am tired -- as I generally am -- out comes this, and down goes everything. But I can't read it over; and God knows what contradictions it may contain. If I am severe with myself, (but I fear one lies more near to one's-self than to any one else,) every page should confute, refute, and utterly abjure its predecessor." In a paroxysm, of which the cause is not known, he wrote to his publisher, with an order that all his writings should be immediately destroyed; but on a representation from Mr Murray, he agreed, like a child, to moderate counsel. In 1816, the first and most characteristic portion of Byron's works terminated with "The Siege of Corinth" and " Parisina."
While thus building up his poetical fame, his domestic history underwent a change. His friends, really anxious for a return on the part of this extraordinary man to those pleasures which can only be found within the precincts of morality and the domestic /lares,/ heard with much satisfaction that he had paid his addresses to the daughter of Sir Ralph Milbanke, and with still more, that he had been accepted. Things looked propitious: even the unseen powers seemed to be pleased, if we are to believe that his mother's marriage-ring, which had been lost, was dug up by the gardener at Newstead on the very day Miss Milbanke's acceptance reached the poet. In 1815, they were married. In the same year, Lady Byron bore him a daughter, the Ada so often alluded to by him, and who afterwards married Lord Lovelace. But the marriage proved unhappy; and in the beginning of 1816, she quitted her husband's house never to return. During the whole of this time, Newstead must have presented an extraordinary scene in many respects. The quarrels have not transpired; but the pecuniary embarrassments into which Byron had precipitated himself were too open to be hidden. The house was nine times in the possession of bailiffs; and although Lady Byron had not left, it is certain that Byron himself would have been necessitated again to leave England. His pride was so far humbled, too, that he consented to receive payment for his writings -- a kind of remuneration which he had heretofore considered a degradation.
The secret of this difference has long been one of those domestic mysteries calculated to engage the attention of a curious public. It is certain that many attempts were made by friends at reconciliation; but where the lady was under the impression that her husband was insane, there could be no hope of such a result. In the midst of the confused negotiations it came out that her ladyship condescended on no fewer than sixteen evidences of insanity, but the precise character of these has never come to the public ear, so that the curiosity which ought to have abated with a mere knowledge of the imputation, rather increased. Of course, Lord Byron was no more insane than he ever had been. The world is full of such maniacs, who are often, by kind treatment, brought to become passable, even very loving, husbands. Byron had no fault to find with her, and was ready to embrace the first opportunity of trying to build up again a household peace; but even after the friends of both pronounced for his sanity, the lady took another position still more hopeless -- that if he were sane, he was still more objectionable, in so far that his disrespect towards her must have resulted from intention. The truth would appear to be, that she had really never loved him with that affection which is so great a conciliator, smoothing down so many of the asperities of married life, and even changing faults into virtues. The one expression alone of his Lordship proves that he was not a marital impossibility, -- "I never had, nor can have, any reproach to make to her while with me. Where there is blame, it belongs to myself; and if I cannot redeem it, I must bear it." The man who wrote this might have been won.
But the lady's part was, of course, taken by the public. An outcry was raised against Byron, who, soon after, left England, never to set foot in it again. His first residence was in the vicinity of Geneva, where the sublime scenery of Switzerland and the sympathies of Shelley contributed to raise his poetic enthusiasm into higher and purer vigour than it had yet attained. The "Prisoner of Chillon" was written here, and also the third canto of "Childe Harold;" but, beyond all, the influence of the surrounding scenery gave birth to "Manfred," a poem deriving a grandeur from physical locale and supernatural imagery which renders it nearly unique in our language. But in the midst of this poetical labour, and it is feared much dissipation, he was not a happy man. There is a melancholy passage in his "Journal" which has been often quoted. "In all this, recollections of bitterness, and more especially of recent and more home desolation which must accompany me through life, have preyed upon me here, and neither the music of the shepherd, nor the crashing of the avalanche, nor the torrent, the mountain, the glacier, the forest, nor the cloud, have for one moment lightened the weight upon my heart, nor enabled me to lose my own wretched identity in the majesty and the power and the glory around, above, and beneath me." It is questionable how far this melancholy was not due to a condition of the body induced by absurd diet. The horror of obesity still haunted him, and the means he took to diminish it are scarcely credible. "A thin slice of bread," says Moore, "with tea at breakfast, a light vegetable dinner, with a bottle or two of seltzer water, tinged with /vin de grave,/ and in the evening a cup of green tea, without milk or sugar, formed the whole of his sustenance. The pangs of hunger he appeased by privately chewing tobacco and smoking cigars." In the end of 1816 he took up his residence in Venice, where he remained for three years, sometimes betaking himself to Rome, and collecting materials for the fourth canto of his great poem. His residence in Venice was shaded by habits which are said to have reached a low and gross debauchery; nor was his connexion, something more lasting than his other loves, with the Countess Guiccioli, though patronized by the husband and brother, any improvement, at least to English feelings. In 1820 he followed the Countess and her family to Ravenna, where, through them, he got engaged in political plots, the consequence of which was the banishment of his Italian friends from the Papal States. Pisa then became the abode of the party, where Byron received Mr and Mrs Shelley, and afterwards Mr Leigh Hunt, and where they attempted the unsuccessful periodical, the /Liberal./
At this stage of his life there occurs a touching incident. It happened that a young lady in Hastings made an entry in her diary, containing a solemn prayer for one very clearly pointed out as Lord Byron. She afterwards married a Mr Sheppard, in Dorsetshire, and died in 1819. Two years afterwards, that gentleman, who had seen the entry, wrote to Lord Byron with a pious communication. Byron returned a prompt answer, allowing the advantage believers have over unbelievers, and saying that his scepticism was a necessity of his nature, yet almost hoping that he would be like Maupertius and Henry Kirke White, who began in infidelity and ended with a firm belief. It is to be feared that this hope was never realised.
While in Italy Byron's poetical vein flowed freely. In addition to "Manfred" and the last canto of "Childe Harold," and several works rather poor, he produced "Mazeppa," "The Lament of Tasso," and his dramas, which, with the exception of "Cain," shewed signs of moral improvement, though rather a falling off of poetical vigour. Though possessed of no great versatility, he had a vein for a grotesque humour, something of the Italian cast, approaching the ludicrous, yet admitting freely of exquisite descriptions. His first attempt in this direction was "Beppo," with its ethical looseness, pervading, like a crawling serpent among flowers, very noble poetry. The same remarks apply to "Don Juan." As connected with this phase of his character, we may notice that he had always exhibited a tendency to practical joking. Witness the present of a Bible he made to Mr Murray, and of which that gentleman was so proud -- shewing it to his friends -- until he discovered that Byron had put his pen through the word /"robber,"/ in the sentence, "Now Barrabas was a robber," and replaced it by /"publisher."/ All this is very alien from a character of sullen misanthropy. Timon never jokes!
Byron left Pisa, in 1822, in consequence of a quarrel with some official, and also because the Guiccioli were ordered to quit the territories of Tuscany. He rejoined them in Genoa. In the meantime Shelley had been drowned, and soon after a field of activity was opened to him of a new kind. The London Committee of Phillhellenes requested him to take part in the emancipation of Greece, and he enthusiastically accepted the invitation. Sailing from Genoa in 1823, he arrived soon after at Cephalonia, where he began his patriotic exertions. In January 1824 he landed at Missolonghi. He was now labouring under illness, which he had aggravated by bathing in the sea during his prior voyage. The great object of his expedition was fraught with disappointment to one who had sung of Greece as Greece once was. His health was further injured by imprudent exposure to cold in an unhealthy climate, and by many anxieties which he never expressed. He perhaps treated himself unwisely; having a great antipathy to obesity, he was always endeavouring to reduce it. In Greece he lived upon dry bread, vegetables, and cheese; and to notice the effect of his dietetics, he used to measure his wrist and waist every morning, taking medicine if he found an increase. On the 9th of April he got wet through, and fever and rheumatic pains came on. On the 18th he got up and attempted to read, but shortly became faint and returned to bed. He died of this fever, with, it is supposed, its accompanying inflammation of the heart, on the following day. It is said that a thunderstorm broke over the town at the moment of his decease -- a clear sign to the Greeks that the prodigies of their old country are not yet ended. His remains were taken to England, and interred in the family vault in the church of Hucknall.
Poetry: The Life of Lord Byron - By Alexander Leighton - Bio - Links to more Byron
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