George Gordon, Lord Byron (1788-1824)
From Literary Anecdotes (1800-1829)

PEOPLE came from distant places, even from Newcastle, to witness what all spoke of with wonder. There were one day applications for 2,557 places, while there were only 630 of that kind in the house. Porters and servants had to bivouac for a night in the streets, on mats and palliasses, in order that they might get an early chance of admission to the box-office next day. At the more thrilling parts of the performance, the audience were agitated to a degree unprecedented in this cool latitude. Many ladies fainted. This was particularly the case on the evening when Isabella, or the Fatal Marriage, was performed. 'The personator of Isabella has to exhibit the distress of a wife, on finding, after a second marriage, that her first and beloved husband, Biron, is still alive. Mrs. Siddons was left at the close in such an exhausted state, that some minutes elapsed before she could be carried off the stage. A young heiress, Miss Gordon of Gight, in Aberdeenshire, was carried out of her box in hysterics, screaming loudly the words caught from the great actress: 'Oh, my Biron! my Biron!' A strange tale was therewith connected. A gentleman, whom she had not at this time seen or heard of, the Honourable John Biron, next year met, paid his addresses, and married. It was to her a fatal marriage in several respects, although it gave to the world the poet Lord Byron.

William Chambers, Memoir of Robert Chambers. With Autobiographic Reminiscences of William Chambers (5th edn.,1872), p. 300.

NEITHER Moore nor myself had ever seen Byron when it was settled that he should dine at my house to meet Moore; nor was he known by sight to Campbell, who, happening to call upon me that morning, consented to join the party. I thought it best that I alone should be in the drawing-room when Byron entered it; and Moore and Campbell accordingly withdrew. Soon after his arrival, they returned; and I introduced them to him severally, naming them as Adam named the beasts.

When we sat down to dinner, I asked Byron if he would take soup? 'No; he never took soup.' — 'Would he take some fish? — 'No; he never took fish. — Presently I asked if he would eat some mutton? 'No; he never ate mutton. — I then asked if he would take a glass of wine? 'No; he never tasted wine. — It was now necessary to inquire what he did eat and drink; and the answer was, 'Nothing but hard biscuits and soda-water.' Unfortunately, neither hard biscuits nor soda-water were at hand; and he dined upon potatoes bruised down on his plate and drenched with vinegar. — My guests stayed till very late, discussing the merits of Walter Scott and Joanna Baillie. — Some days after, meeting Hobhouse, I said to him, 'How long will Lord Byron persevere in his present diet?' He replied, 'Just as long as you continue to notice it.' I did not then know, what I now know to be a fact — that Byron, after leaving my house, had gone to a Club in St. James's Street, and eaten a hearty meat supper.

Rogers, Table Talk, pp. 176-7.

HE had ordered dinner from some trattoria, and while waiting its arrival — as well as that of Mr. Alexander Scott, whom he had invited to join us — we stood out on the balcony, in order that, before the daylight was quite gone, I might have some glimpses of the scene which the Canal presented. Happening to remark, in looking up at the clouds, which were still bright in the west, that 'what had struck me in Italian sunsets was that peculiar rosy hue — ' I had hardly pronounced the word 'rosy', when Lord Byron, clapping his hand on my mouth, said, with a laugh, 'Come, d — n it, Tom, don't be poetical.'

Ernest J. Lovell, ed., His Very Self and Voice (New York, 1954), p. 235.

WHILE I was in London, the melancholy death of Lord Byron was announced in the public papers, and I saw his remains borne away out of the city on its last journey to that place where fame never comes.... His funeral was blazed in the papers with the usual parade that accompanies the death of great men.... I happened to see it by chance as I was wandering up Oxford Street on my way to Mrs. Emmerson's, when my eye was suddenly arrested by straggling groups of the common people collected together and talking about a funeral. I did as the rest did, though I could not get hold of what funeral it could be; but I knew it was not a common one by the curiosity that kept watch on every countenance. By and by the group collected into about a hundred or more, when the train of a funeral suddenly appeared, on which a young girl that stood by me gave a deep sigh and uttered, 'Poor Lord Byron.' . . . I looked up at the young girl's face. It was dark and beautiful, and I could almost feel in love with her for the sigh she had uttered for the poet.... The common people felt his merits and his power, and the common people of a country are the best feelings of a prophecy of futurity. They are the veins and arteries that feed and quicken the heart of living fame....

The young girl that stood by me had counted the carriages in her mind as they passed and she told me there were sixty-three or four in all. They were of all sorts and sizes and made up a motley show. The gilt ones that led the procession were empty. The hearse looked small and rather mean and the coach that followed carried his embers in an urn over which a pall was thrown.... I believe that his liberal principles in religion and politics did a great deal towards gaining the notice and affections of the lower orders. Be as it will, it is better to be beloved by those low and humble for undisguised honesty than flattered by the great for purchased and pensioned hypocrisies.

J. W. and Anne Tibble, John Clare: A Life (1932), pp. 226-7.

ONE day the news came to the village — the dire news which spread across the land, filling men's hearts with consternation — that Byron was dead. Tennyson was then a boy about fifteen.

'Byron was dead! I thought the whole world was at an end,' he once said, speaking of these bygone days. 'I thought everything was over and finished for everyone — that nothing else mattered. I remember I walked out alone, and carved "Byron is dead" into the sandstone.'

Lady Ritchie, Records, p. 12.