LIFE ABROAD—SWITZERLAND TO VENICE—THIRD PERIOD OF AUTHORSHIP.—CHILDE HAROLD, III., IV.—MANFRED.
On the 25th of April, 1816, Byron embarked for Ostend. From the “burning marl” of the staring streets he planted his foot again on the dock with a genuine exultation.
Once more upon the waters, yet once more,
And the waves bound beneath me as a steed
That knows her rider. Welcome to the roar!
But he brought with him a relic of English extravagance, sotting out on his land travels in a huge coach, copied from that of Napoleon taken at Genappe, and being accompanied by Fletcher, Rushton, Berger, a Swiss, and Polidori, a physician of Italian descent, son of Alfieri’s secretary, a man of some talent but indiscreet. A question arises as to the source from which he obtained the means for these and subsequent luxuries, in striking contrast with Goldsmith’s walking-stick, knapsack, and flute. Byron’s financial affairs are almost inextricably confused. We can, for instance, nowhere find a clear statement of the result of the suit regarding the Rochdale Estates, save that he lost it before the Court of Exchequer, and that his appeal to the House of Lords was still unsettled in 1822. The sale of Newstead to Colonel Wildman in 1818, for 90,000 l., went mostly to pay off mortgages and debts. In April, 1819, Mrs. Leigh writes, after a last sigh over this event:—“Sixty thousand pounds was secured by his (Byron’s) marriage settlement, the interest of which he receives for life, and which ought to make him very comfortable.” This is unfortunately decisive of the fact that he did not in spirit adhere to the resolution expressed to Moore never to touch a farthing of his wife’s money, though we may accept his statement to Medwin, that he twice repaid the dowry of 10,000 l. brought to him at the marriage, as in so far diminishing the obligation. None of the capital of Lady Byron’s family came under his control till 1822, when, on the death of her mother, Lady Noel, Byron arranged the appointment of referees, Sir Francis Burdett on his behalf, Lord Dacre on his wife’s. The result was an equal division of a property worth about 7000 l a year. While in Italy the poet received besides about 10,000 l for his writings—4000 l. being given for Childe Harold (iii., iv.), and Manfred. “Ne pas etre dupe” was one of his determinations, and, though he began by caring little for making money, he was always fond of spending it. “I tell you it is too much,” he said to Murray, in returning a thousand guineas for the Corinth and Partsina. Hodgson, Moore, Bland, Thomas Ashe, the family of Lord Falkland, the British Consul at Venice, and a host of others, were ready to testify to his superb munificence. On the other hand, he would stint his pleasures, or his benevolences, which were among them, for no one;