« PoprzedniaDalej »
Ladyship observes: "Well, I never will allow myself to form an ideal of any person I desire to see; for disappointment never fails to ensue.'
Byron, she admits, had more thanusual personal attractions, “but his appearance nevertheless had fallen short of her expectations." There is no commendation, however, without a concomitant effort at depreciation. For example, her Ladyship observes—“His laugh is musical, but he rarely indulged in it during our interview; and when he did, it was quickly followed by a graver aspect, as if he liked not this exhibition of hilarity. Were I asked to point out the prominent defect of Byron's manner, I should pronounce it to be a flippancy incompatible with the notion we attach to the author of Childe Hareld and Manfred; and a want of self-possession and dig. nity, that ought to characterise a man of birth and genius. Notwithstanding this defect, his manners are very fascinating —more sn, perhaps, than if they were dignified: but he is too gay, too flippant for a poet."*
Lady Blessington was accompanied on this occasion by her sister, Miss Mary Anne Power, now Comtesse de St. Marsault. Byron, in a letter to Moore, dated April 2nd, 1823, thus refers to this interview :
“Your other allies, whom I have found very agreeable personages, are Milor Blessington and èpouse, travelling with a very handsome companion, in the shape of a French Count' (to use Farquhar's phrase in the Beaux Stratagem), who has all the air of a Cupidon déchaine, and is one of the few specimens I have seen of our ideal of a Frenchman before the Revolution, an old friend with a new face, upon whose like I never thought that we should look again. Miladi seems highly literary, to which, and your honour's acquaintance with the family, I attribute the pleasure of having seen them. She is also very pretty, even in a morning,—a species of beauty
* Idler in Italy, p. 392.
on which the sun of Italy does not shine so frequently as the chandelier. Certainly English women wear better than their continental neighbours of the same sex. Mountjoy seems very good-natured, but is much tamed since I recollect him in all the glory of gems and snuff-boxes, and uniform, and theatricals, and speeches in our house — I mean of peers,'— I must refer you to Pope, whom you don't read, and won't appreciate—for that quotation (which you must allow to be poetical), and sitting to Stroelling, the painter, (do you remember our visit, with Leckie, to the German ?) to be depicted as one of the heroes of Agincourt, 'with his long sword, saddle, bridle, Whack fal de, &c. &c.”
We thus find, from the letter of Byron to his friend Moore, that the Blessingtons were accompanied by the Count Alfred D'Orsay, in their visit to his Lordship, and that he was one of the party on their arrival, and at their departure from Genoa.
It is probable that the arrangements for the Count's journey to Italy with the Blessingtons had been made in Paris, though he did not accompany them from that city, but joined them first at Valence on the Rhone, and subsequently at Avignon
D'Orsay, who had been attached to the French army of the pretended expedition against Spain, abandoned his profession, in an evil hour, for the career of a mere man of pleasure and of fashion.
Byron and the Blessingtons continued to live on the most intimate terms, we are told by Lady Blessington, during the stay of the latter at Genoa; and that intimacy had such a happy influence on the author of Childe Harold, that he began to abandon his misanthropy. On the other hand, I am assured by the Marquise de Boissy, formerly Countess of Guiccioli, that the number of visits of Byron to Lady Blessington during the entire period of her sojourn in Genoa, did not exceed five or six at the utmost; and that Byron was by no means disposed to afford the opportunities that he believed were sought, to enable a lady of a literary turn to
vrite about him. But D'Orsay, she adds, at the first interview, had struck Byron as a person of considerable talents and wonderful acquirements for a man of his age and former pursuits. Byron from the first liked D'Orsay; he was clever, original, unpretending; he affected to be nothing that he was not."
Byron sat for his portrait to D'Orsay, that portrait which subsequently appeared in the New Monthly Magazine, and afterwards as a frontispiece of her Ladyship's work, “Conversations with Lord Byron.
His Lordship suffered Lady Blessington to lecture him in prose, and what was worse--in verse. He endeavoured to persuade Lord Blessington to prolong his stay in Genoa, and to take a residence adjoining his own, named “Il Paradiso." And a rumour of his intention to take the place for himself, and some good-naturned friend observing -“Il diavolo è ancora entrato in Paradiso,” his Lordship wrote the following
Beneath Blessington's eyes
The reclaimed Paradise
But if the new Eve
For an apple should grieve,
But the original conceit was not in poetry.
Lady Blessington informed me, that on the occasion of a masked ball, to be given in Genoa, Byron stated his intention of going there, and asked her Ladyship to accompany him : en badinant about the character she was to go in, some one had suggested that of Eve-Byron said, “As some one must play the devil, I will do it."
Shortly before her departure from Genoa, Lady Blessington requested Byron to write some lines in her album, and accordingly, he composed the five stanzas for her, which will be found elsewhere.
Moore speaks of the happy influence of Lady Blessington's society over the mind of Byron:
“One of the most important services conferred upon Lord Byron by Lady Blessington during this intimacy, was that half reviving of his old regard for his wife, and the check which she contrived to place upon the composition of Don Juan, and upon the continuation of its most glaring immoralities. He spoke of Ada; her mother, he said, has feasted on the smiles of her infancy and growth, but the tears of her maturity shall be mine.' Lady Blessington told him, that if he so loved his child, he should never write a line that could bring a blush of shame to her cheek, or a sorrowing tear to her eye; and he said : You are right, I never recollected this. I am jealously tenacious of the undivided sympathy of my daughter; and that work (Don Juan), written to beguile hours of tristesse and wretchedness, is well calculated to loosen my hold on her affections. I will write no more of it, would that I had never written a line.' In this gentler mind, with old loves, old times, and the tenderest love that human heart can know, all conducing to soothe his pride and his dislike of Lady Byron, he learned that a near friend of her Ladyship was in Genoa, and he requested Lady Blessington to procure for him, through this friend, a portrait of his wife. He had heard that Lady Byron feared he was about to come to England for the purpose of claiming his child. questing the portrait, and in refuting the report, he addressed the following letter to Lady Blessington
“May 3, 1823. "DEAR LADY BLESSINGTON,
“My request would be for a copy of the miniature of
Lady B. which I have seen in possession of the late Lady Noel, as I have no picture, or indeed memorial of any kind of Lady B., as all her letters were in her own possession before I left England—and we have had no correspondence since—at least on her part. My message with regard to the infant, is simply to this effect, that in the event of any accident occurring to the mother, and my remaining the survivor, it would be my wish to have her plans carried into effect, both with regard to the education of the child, and the person or persons under whose care Lady B. might be desirous that she should be placed. It is not my intention to interfere with her in any way on the subject during her life; and I presume that it would be some consolation to her to know, (if she is in ill health, as I am given to understand,) that in no case would anything be done, as far as I am concerned, but in strict conformity with Lady B.'s own wishes and intentions—left in what manner she thought proper. Believe me, dear Lady B., your obliged, &c.'”
At length, in the early part of June, 1823, the Blessingtons took their departure from Genoa, and Moore tells us how the separation affected Byron :
“On the evening before the departure of his friends, Lord and Lady Blessington, from Genoa, he called upon them for the
purpose of taking leave, and sat conversing for some time. He was evidently in low spirits, and after expressing his regret that they should leave Genoa before his time of sailing, proceeded to speak of his own intended voyage in a tone full of despondence. • Here,' said he, we are all now together
-but when, and where, shall we meet again? I have a sort of boding that we see each other for the last time; as something tells me I shall never again return from Greece.' Having continued a little longer in this melancholy strain, he leaned his head upon the arm of the sofa on which they were seated, and, bursting into tears, wept for some minutes with uncontrollable feeling Though he had been talking only with Lady Blessington, all who were present in the room observed, and were affected by his emotion, while he himself, apparently