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Hobnobbing with Ali Pasha, Part 4 to the Life & Works of
Lord Byron

Trelawny recollects25 that in 1809 Byron first left England; rode on horseback through Spain and Portugal, four hundred miles; crossed the Mediterranean on board a frigate, and landed in Greece26, where he passed two years after which he returned to England.

Leaving London with John Hobhouse, in June of 1809, the pair departed Falmouth on July 2nd, on the Lisbon packet, Princess Elizabeth.27 By the 7th of July, Byron and Hobhouse were at Lisbon, and from there went by horseback to Seville and Cadiz. It is during this time that Byron swam the Tagus.28 In time, he went by sea to the British base of Gibraltar. On the 16th of August, Byron sailed for Malta where he makes love to Mrs. Spencer Smith (the "Fair Florence" of Childe Harold [canto II, stanzas xxix-xxxiii]). After three weeks in Malta the party landed at Preveza and after that, toured Albania. He met the bandit, Ali Pasha, and the two take a liking for one and other. The two in company travelled to Greece29 and Turkey (Byron swam the Hellespont). His travels with Ali Pasha included, to quote E. H. Coleridge: "a yachting tour along the shores of the Ambracian Gulf (November 8-23), a journey by land from Larnaki to Athens (December 15-25), and excursions in Attica, Sunium and Marathon (January 13-25, 1810)."30 Hobhouse was not so impressed with all of this as was Byron. On July 14th, 1810, Hobhouse took a passage to England, leaving Byron to go back to Greece. During this, Byron's first eastern trip, he writes the first two cantos of Childe Harold, which tells the story of his tour. At Greece he composes "Hints from Horace" and the "Curse of Minerva".

Not much is known of Byron's travels, after saying his goodbyes to Hobhouse, in July of 1810. I quote E. H. Coleridge's biography, once again: "... he was travelling in the Morea during August and September, that early in October he was at Patras, having just recovered from a severe attack of malarial fever, and that by the 14th of November he had returned to Athens and taken up his quarters at the Franciscan convent."31 Byron might have been in residence at a convent, the Capuchin convent; but Byron did not live the life of a monk. We see at this period of time, November, 1810 -- though in bad financial shape -- how Byron managed to partake of the high life in Athens. In a letter to a friend, Byron describes "a party with drunken, rowdy Turkish heads-of-state." It is thus that Byron continued on in Athens, until, April of 1811. It was in June that he was back in Gibraltar; in between April and June he spent a few weeks at Malta. (Ah! Yes. -- Mrs. Spencer Smith.) It was after leaving Malta that Byron wrote in his journal of his general unhappiness with mankind. By July 14th, he was back in England32 after an absence of a little more than two years. Before the month was out, Byron had met up with Hobhouse, now a captain in the Militia. The pair toured Canterbury and its vicinity. I believe that it was in August of 1811, that he heard the news that his mother was ill. Upon hearing this, Byron borrowed £40 from his Solicitor, John Hanson, so that he could travel home to see his sick mother. It was too late. Catherine died at Newstead on August 1st. "On arriving at Newstead, all their storms forgotten, the son was so affected that he did not trust himself to go to the funeral, but stood dreamily gazing at the cortége from the gate of the Abbey."33

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Peter Landry

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2014