The Late Lord Byron: Posthumous Dramas

By Doris Langley Moore | Go to book overview

APPENDIX
The row in the Opera House

The published extracts from Hobhouse Journals do not contain any allusion at all to the little fracas in the Opera House which had such serious consequences for Polidori; but Hobhouse wrote about it fully and immediately.

Monday October 28th

. . . Went to the opera -- whilst I was in the pit Polidori came in with Borsieri. P. began to be indignant against the appearance of the soldiery and was silly enough to ask a grenadier officer to pull off his cap. The Captn, who was the officer of the guard, turned round and said vorreste [would you wish it?] Lo voglio [I wish it] returned Polidori -- the officer desired him to step out with him. Polidori called me to come out with him thinking he was to fight. He was soon undeceived by being ordered into the custody of two grenadiers into the guardhouse --

At first he would not go -- when the officer half drew his sword upon him and was scarcely to be repressed by my intercession. P. was marched in to the guard room and there began a lively altercation with the deutscher whom he told that in the theatre he was equal to any body, the officer replying that he was a verfluchter kerl and not equal to the meanest soldier. The officer was very foul mouthed the doctor very foolish and English but not abusive.

Down came Ld B. de Brême de Beyle Guasco Borsieri (who had gone up to the box to tell the others what was happening] but the officer was not afraid. Brême referred to the Casa di Brême, which did nothing. An English nobleman had a little more power, but still the angry grenadier swore he would make out a species facti or procès verbal and filed us out of the room except Byron and B[rême]

We waited some time without when at last came the Doctor bailed by Ld B. who gave his card for the Doctor's appearance. We returned to the box.

Polidori's diary completely supports Hobhouse, and gives a higher opinion of the writer's veracity than we might expect, considering the passing-off of his tale The Vampyre as Byron's (but his posthumous nephew William Michael Rossetti, makes out a good, though not a perfect, case for Polidori's having been innocently involved in that imposture):

. . . Mr Hobhouse, Borsieri, and myself went into the pit, standing to look at the ballet. An officer in a great-coat came and placed himself completely before me with his grenadier's hat on . . . I touched him, and said "Vorrebbe farmi la grazia de levarsi il cappello purch'io vegga?" [Would you do me the favour of taking off your hat so that I may see?] He turning said "Lo vorreste? " with a smile of insult. I answered: "Si, lo voglio." He then asked me if I would go out with him. I, thinking he meant for a duel,

-394-

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