The Late Lord Byron: Posthumous Dramas

By Doris Langley Moore | Go to book overview

APPENDIX
Forrester's account of Byron at Missolonghi

Medwin does not say where he procured Forrester's two letters about Byron, but their style is perfectly distinguished from his own, and the verifiable particulars are authentic. Forrester went down with a convict ship in which he was serving. The date of his meeting with Byron was January 26th, 1824.

Missolonghi is just as wretched a collection of houses and huts as can well be imagined. . . . The season was very rainy and the houses were insulated among mire and water, the communication being kept up by steppingstones. . . . A visit to Lord Byron was our first step in landing. . . .

The principal and only tolerable room was approached by an outward stair. Three sides were furnished with sofas in the Turkish taste. A deal shelf, apparently stuck against the wall, was loaded with books. . . . Round the walls were appended to numerous nails and pegs, fowling-pieces and pistols of various descriptions and nations; sabres and yataghans. The corridor or antichamber, or whatever else it might be termed, swarmed with Mainotes and others, armed to the teeth.

We were ushered in by Tita, his Lordship's chasseur, who reminded me of the French sapeurs, as he wore a bushy beard, with his livery which was set off by two silver epaulettes. He was an immense fellow, upwards of six feet in height, and although well-proportioned for such a herculean figure, his frame was too large and heavy for his stature to come within the description of elegant. His page was a young Greek, dressed as an Albanian or Mainote, with very handsomely chased arms in his girdle, and his maitre d'hotel, or fac-totum, an honest-looking, though not remarkably elastic Northumbrian, named Fletcher, who seemed, and doubtless with reason, a great favourite with his master.

. . . Of course, I entered his house as in a certain degree familiarised to the appearance of its master, but great was my astonishment, although prepared to make a fair allowance to artists, to see before me a being bearing as little resemblance to the pretended fac-simile, as I to Apollo. True . . . I had certainly been taught to expect one thing I found -- a long oval face with a handsome nose, and a kind of rapt expression of thoughtfulness, blended with a cynical hint amounting to 'don't think me thoughtful for want of thought'; but instead of . . . the absent, unsociable, and supercilious deportment I had been prepared to meet, we were presented with the personification of frankness itself; his countenance enlivened with smiles, and his whole manner the very reverse of anything like abstraction, not to say misanthropy.

. . . Our intercourse was under some ludicrous restrictions. Any communication with Turkey would have classed us as unclean at any of the Ionian Islands, or other parts where certain precautions against the plague are attended to . . . we made it a sort of quarantine case of conscience to sit on a wooden stool and packing cases, and to deny ourselves the luxury of his Lordship's Turkish cushions and sofa.

-509-

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