Friday, September 25, 2009

Department of Quotation: Byron in Venice

Friday, September 25, 2009

Loretta reports:

Venice, January 28th, 1817

"...in walked a well-looking and (for an Italian)
bionda girl of about nineteen....we had some talk ... when lo! in a very few minutes, in marches, to my very great astonishment, Marianna S[egati],* in propria persona, and after making a very polite courtesy to her sister-in-law and to me, without a single word seizes her said sister-in-law by the hair, and bestows upon her some sixteen slaps, which would have made your ear ache only to hear their echo. I need not describe the screaming which ensued. The luckless visitor took flight. I seized Marianna, who, after several vain efforts to get away in pursuit of the enemy, fairly went into fits in my arms; and, in spite of reasoning, eau de Cologne, vinegar, half a pint of water, and God knows what other waters beside, continued so till past midnight...."

"After about an hour, in com
es--who! why, Signior S[egati], her lord and husband, and finds me with his wife fainting upon the sofa, and all the apparatus of confusion, dishevelled hair, hats, handkerchief, salts, smelling-bottles--and the lady as pale as ashes...." "It is very well known that almost all the married women have a lover; but it is usual to keep up the forms, as in other nations. I did not, therefore, know what the devil to say....I thought the best way would be to let her explain it as she chose (a woman being never at a loss--the devil always sticks by them)--only determining to protect and carry her off, in case of any ferocity on the part of the Signior."

Byron's Letters & Journals, Volume 5, 'So late into the night'

*Byron's mistress of the moment in Venice

5 comments:

Jane O said...

What a lovely, farcical scene!
I sometimes think it must have been exhausting to be Byron and have to live up to the reputation all the time.

Vanessa Kelly said...

This passage is so out there I don't even know where to begin! From the opening comment - a well-looking girl "for an Italian" - to the hysterics that are impervious to any cure...it is truly akin to a stage farce!

Byron sure seemed to have a talent for picking women who were into the drama. He sounds quite bitter actually - as if Marianna isn't sticking to the agreed-upon script. Not that I can blame him. The whole episode sounds hilariously terrifying.

Thanks for the start-of-the-day laugh, TNHG!

Susan Holloway Scott said...

Love this, Loretta, and love the picture of Lord B., lounging in his Venice lodgings and waiting for divine inspiration (or perhaps another bionda) to descend.

Ms. Lucy said...

The whole scene is so dramatic, and comical ... the best part is that it's typical as well. Delightful post- thanks:)

Loretta Chase said...

Mesdames, Byron's life, certainly, was filled with incident. This wasn't the only comical scene related to his amours. Among others, there's one where two Italian beauties have a confrontation. He clearly enjoyed having women fight over him--it didn't happen much in England. There he had stalkers, like Caroline Lamb.
Vanessa, I'd hate for you to get the idea he had a low opinion of the beauty of Italian women. On the contrary, he found them extremely beautiful--and it sort of overwhelmed him at first. He goes on and on about their looks in his letters. In this case, he's simply saying that the lady is fair or "white" by Italian standards; IOW, not necessarily the same coloring as a pale northern beauty. But really, it's worth picking up a volume of the Letters & Journals, to get a sense of the man. More complex (and confused) and not quite as "Byronic" as people tend to think.

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