Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 08.djvu/151

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would stay. It struck, and he gave up the journey. He wrote to the countess that he would obey her, though his departure would have been best for them all. At Christmas 1819 he was back in Ravenna.

He now subsided into an indolent routine, to which he adhered with curious pertinacity. Trelawny describes the day at Pisa soon afterwards, and agrees with Moore, Hunt, Medwin, and Gamba. He rose very late, took a cup of green tea, had a biscuit and soda-water at two, rode out and practised shooting, dined most abstemiously, visited the Gambas in the evening, and returned to read or write till two or three in the morning. At Ravenna previously and afterwards in Greece he kept nearly to the same hours. His rate of composition at this period was surprising. Medwin says that after sitting with Byron till two or three the poet would next day produce fresh work. He discontinued ‘Don Juan’ after the fifth canto in disgust at its reception, and in compliance with the request of the Countess Guiccioli, who was shocked at its cynicism. In February 1820 he translated the ‘Morgante Maggiore;’ in March the ‘Francesca da Rimini’ episode. On 4 April he began his first drama, the ‘Marino Faliero,’ finished it 16 July, and copied it out by 17 Aug. It was produced at Drury Lane the next spring, in spite of his remonstrance, and failed, to his great annoyance. ‘Sardanapalus,’ begun 13 Jan. 1821, was finished 13 May (the last three acts in a fortnight). The ‘Two Foscari’ was written between 11 June and 10 July; ‘Cain,’ begun on 16 July, was finished 9 Sept. The ‘Deformed Transformed’ was written at the end of the same year. ‘Werner,’ a mere dramatisation of Harriet Lee's ‘Kruitzner’ in the ‘Canterbury Tales,’ was written between 18 Dec. 1821 and 20 Jan. 1822. The vigorous, though perverse, letters to Bowles on the Pope controversy are also dated 7 Feb. and 25 March 1821. No literary hack could have written more rapidly, and some would have written as well. The dramas thus poured forth at full speed by a thoroughly undramatic writer, hampered by the wish to preserve the ‘unities,’ mark (with the exception of ‘Cain’) his lowest level, and are often mere prose broken into apparent verse.

Count Guiccioli began to give trouble. Byron was warned not to ride in the forest alone for fear of probable assassination. Guiccioli's long acquiescence had turned public opinion against him, and a demand for separation on account of his ‘extraordinary usage’ of his wife came from her friends. On 12 July a papal decree pronounced a separation accordingly. The countess was to receive 200l. a year from her husband, to live under the paternal roof, and only to see Byron under restrictions. She retired to a villa of the Gambas fifteen miles off, where Byron rode out to see her ‘once or twice a month,’ passing the intervals in ‘perfect solitude.’ By January 1821, however (Diary, 4 Jan. 1821), she seems to have been back in Ravenna. Byron did all he could (Diary, 24 Jan. 1821, and Letter 374) to prevent her from leaving her husband.

Political complications were arising. Italy was seething with the Carbonaro conspiracies. The Gambas were noted liberals. Byron's aristocratic vanity was quite consistent with a conviction of the corruption and political blindness of the class to which he boasted of belonging. The cant, the imbecility, and immorality of the ruling classes at home and abroad were the theme of much of his talk, and inspired his most powerful writing. His genuine hatred of war and pity for human suffering are shown, amidst much affectation, in his loftiest verse. Though no democrat after the fashion of Shelley, he was a hearty detester of the system supported by the Holy alliance. He was ready to be a leader in the revolutionary movements of the time. The walls of Ravenna were placarded with ‘Up with the republic!’ and ‘Death to the pope!’ Young Count Gamba (Teresa's brother) soon afterwards returned to Ravenna, became intimate with Byron, and introduced him to the secret societies. On 8 Dec. 1820 the commandant of the troops in Ravenna was mortally wounded in the street. Byron had the man carried into his house at the point of death, and described the event in ‘Don Juan’ (v. 34). It was due in some way to the action of the societies. A rising in the Romagna was now expected. Byron had offered a subscription of one thousand louis to the constitutional government in Naples, to which the societies looked for support. He had become head of the Americani, a section of the Carbonari (Letter 450), and bought some arms for them, which during the following crisis were suddenly returned to him, and had to be concealed in his house (Diary, 16 and 18 Feb. 1821). An advance of Austrian troops caused a collapse of the whole scheme. A thousand members of the best families in the Roman states were banished (Letter 439), and among them the Gambas. Mme. Guiccioli says that the government hoped by exiling them to get rid of Byron, whose position as an English nobleman made it difficult to reach him directly for his suspected relations with the Carbonari. The countess helped, perhaps was intentionally worked upon, to dislodge him. Her husband requested that she should be forced to return to him or placed