Brilliant, reckless, debauched, extravagant, handsome, Lord Byron was in
the words of Matthew Arnold the "romantic hero at odds with the world and
calling on all sympathetic readers to view the pageant of his bleeding
heart." Famous/infamous in his own time, he left England after divorcing
his completely respectable and entirely incompatible wife never to return.
He wandered Europe apostrophizing freedom and taking his loves where he
found them. The correspondence and journals of Byron fill six volumes,
and his letters have been described as "wildly exclamatory, heavily underlined,
with pages blotted and blistered with tears..." As both a poet and historical
figure in literature, Byron has always fascinated me.
LORD BYRON TELLS THE COUNTESS GUICCIOLI THAT HE CANNOT
CEASE TO LOVE HER
Teresa, Countess Guiccioli, at sixteen had
married an old and wealthy Italian nobleman. She was golden-haired, poised,
well-read, and gentle. In 1819, when she was eighteen and he thirty-one,
Byron met her and fell passionately in love.
Here is one of his letters to her:
"...my destiny rests with you..."
Bologna, August 25, 1819
DEAREST THERESA, -
I have read this book in your garden: - my love, you
were absent, or else I could not have read it. It is a favorite book
of mine. You will not understand these English words, and others will
not understand them, - which is the reason I have not scrawled them
in Italian. But you will recognize the handwriting of him who passionately
loved you, and you will divine that, over a book that was yours, he
could only think of love.
In that word, beautiful in all languages,
but most so in yours - Amor mio - is comprised my existence
here and thereafter. I feel I exist here, and I feel that I shall
exist hereafter, - to what purpose you will decide; my destiny
rests with you, and you are a woman, eighteen years of age, and two
out of a convent, I wish you had stayed there, with all my heart,
- or at least, that I had never met you in your married state.
But all this is too late. I love you,
and you love me, - at least, you say so, and act as if you did so,
which last is a great consolation in all events. But I more than
love you, and cannot cease to love you.
Think of me, sometimes, when the Alps
and ocean divide us, - but they never will, unless you wish it.