Lord Byron


      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.

      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

      MY 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.