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of that rich golden tint which is peculiar to the female pictures by Titian and Giorgione. Her countenance is very pleasing ; its general character is pensive, but it can be lit up with animation and gayety, when its expression is very agreeable. Her bust and arms are exquisitely beautiful, and her whole appearance reminds one very strikingly of the best portraits in the Venetian school.”
This account, in several particulars, corresponds with Mr. Hunt's earlier representation of her appearance ; but in one respect it is entirely at variance with the latter; and, from my own observation, though at a later period than that of either Lady Blessington's or Mr. Hunt's acquaintance with Madame Guiccioli, I am fully persuaded the description of her appearance as that of "a kind of buxom parlor boarder" is very far from being correct.
appearance,” says Mr. Hunt, "might have reminded an English spectator of Chaucer's heroine :
• Yclothed was she, fresh for to devise ;
Her yellow hair was braided in a tress
She walketh up and down, where as her list.' “And then, as Dryden has it,
“ • At every turn she made a little stand,
And thrust among the thorns her lily hand.' “Her hair," observes Mr. Hunt, " was what the poet has described as rather blonde, with an inclination to yellow-a very fair and delicate yellow, at all events, and within the limits of the poetical. She had regular features, of the order properly called handsome, in distinction to prettiness or piquancy, being well proportioned to one another-large rather than otherwise, but without coarseness, and more harmonious than interesting. Her nose was the handsomest of the kind I ever saw; and I have known her both smile very sweetly and look intelligently when Lord Byron has said something kind to her. I should not say, however, that she was a very intelligent person. Both her wisdom and her want of wisdom were on the side of her
feelings, in which there was doubtless mingled a good deal of the self-love natural to a flattered beauty. * In a word, Madame Guiccioli was a kind of buxom parlor-boarder, compressing herself artificially into dignity and elegance, and fancying she walked, in the eyes of the whole world, a heroine by the side of a poet. When I saw her at Monte Nero, near Leghorn, she was in a state of excitement and exultation, and had really something of this look. At that time, also, she looked no older than she was; in which respect, a rapid and very singular change took place, to the surprise of every body—in the course of a few months she seemed to have lived so many years."
I have seen Madame Guiccioli thirty-three years after the period at which Mr. Hunt says this “rapid and very singular change” had taken place, and most assuredly, even at this day, there is nothing in the appearance of this fascinating person that would indicate that early change, or indeed any subsequent one, more than the hand of time, most leniently laid on that beautiful face and form, might have been expected, in his most sparing mood, to have made.
The Guiccioli's loveliness was of a kind to which Byron's lines on the Venus de Medicis, in the Florentine Gallery, might be well applied :
“We gaze and turn away, and know not where,
Reels with its fullness."* As to the maudlin affectation ascribed to her by Mr. Hunt, and anxiety to parade her attractions, and the influence of a heroine of romance, the account is wholly at variance with the notices of other writers of her habits and tastes at different periods, not only during the lifetime of Byron, but since that event.
With respect to the deficiency of intelligence, rather hinted at by Mr. Hunt than asserted, it may be observed, in decrying this lady, Lord Byron's taste and judgment were to be depreciated (morality was not taken into account), and altogether an unfavorable impression of the person who was most favorably looked on by the offending poet was to be effected.
* Childe Harold, c. iv., st. 59.
Lord Byron says the education of Madame Guiccioli had been carefully attended to, and her reading had been extensive. " Her conversation is lively without being frivolous ; without being learned, she has read all the best authors of her own and the French language. She often conceals what she knows, from the fear of being thought to know too much; possibly because she knows I am not fond of blues. To use an expression of Jeffrey's, 'If she has blue stockings, she contrives that her petticoats shall hide them.''
The disinterestedness of the Countess Guiccioli is fully established by the testimony of Hobhouse and of Mr. Barry, the friend and banker of Lord Byron, and the statements of Moore, in the preface to the second volume of the first edition of his “Life, Letters, and Journals of Lord Byron.” When Byron went to Greece, he gave Mr. Barry orders to advance money to Madame Guiccioli; “ but that lady would never consent to receive any.” He had also stated to Mr. Barry that he intended to bequeath £10,000 to her. “He mentioned this circumstance also to Lord Blessington ; but his intention had not been carried into effect, and it was fully ascertained that Madame Guiccioli had discountenanced the intention, and dissuaded his lordship from fulfilling it."*
In Moore's diary of July, 1824, we find, in an account of a conversation with Mrs. Shelley regarding Lord Byron and his affairs, these words : “ The Guiccioli has refused a settlement from him (ten thousand pounds, I think).”
The 2d of April, 1823, Byron wrote from Genoa that he had just made the acquaintance of the Blessingtons; and on the 2d of June following, he wrote a farewell letter to Lady Blessington, who was then on the eve of departing from Naples, and on the 13th of the next month he embarked for Greece. Lady Blessington's intimacy with Byron was only for a period of two months, and during those two months, I am informed by the Countess of Guiccioli (now Marquise de Boissy) that the interviews between Lady Blessington and Byron did not exceed five or six : and that the feelings of friendship entertained by his * Moore's Life, &c., of Byron. Pref. to vol. ii., first edit., p. xix.
lordship were not of that very ardent nature which would have prevented him from indulging in his favorite propensity of bewildering his entourage by giving expression to satirical observations, even on a friend on whom he had written such eulogistic verses as he had composed for the Countess of Blessington.
Madame Guiccioli at different periods visited England, and on each occasion found at Gore House a hospitable mansion, where she was occasionally domiciled or entertained. There was great intimacy between Lady Blessington and Madame Guiccioli, and a demonstration of affection in their correspondence that might have denoted friendship of a very cordial kind; but I doubt if a very sincere, ardent, and disinterested attachment existed between them. Madame Guiccioli seemed to feel that she was lionized by Lady Blessington, and Lady Blessington appeared to remember that the Guiccioli claimed a property in the memory of Lord Byron which was not altogether compatible with the feelings of the author of “ Conversations with Lord Byron.” Lady Blessington courted the society of Madame Guiccioli, it is true, showed her great civility, and made a great deal of her in the salons; but any little peculiarities of the Italian lady were seized hold of eagerly, and made the most of in society, and laughed at in it. Like most Italian women, Madame Guiccioli has
little comprehension of badinage or irony in conversation. The Guiccioli could not understand any thing like a joke; she could bear with any neglect, or even a slight, provided it extended not to Byron's memory. Lady Blessington, who delighted in certain kinds of mystification in a sportive humor, mischief making of a playful sort, used sometimes to take advantage of Madame Guiccioli's simplicity and amusing peculiarities, her exaggerated ideas of Italian superiority in all matters of refinement, her invincible persuasion that Italians exceeded all other Europeans in genius, virtue, and patriotism, to enter into arguments at variance with her notions, and to propound strong opinions unfavorable to the people, culture, and climate of Italy.
At the commencement of 1820, Count Guiccioli having arrived in Venice, after some negotiations, menaces of legal proceedings
with a view to a divorce, and a formal agreement, by which it was covenanted that all communication with Lord Byron should ceaseo n the part of the countess, the lady consented to accompany her lord to Ravenna. The covenant was not long kept; letters soon passed between the countess and Byron, with complaints of coldness on one side, protestations on the other, and intimation of intended departure from Italy, and farewells for
The intended departure was soon relinquished. Early in January, Byron was again established at Ravenna; and in July of the same year (1820), a formal separation was pronounced in Rome between the Count and Countess Guiccioli, the lady and her friends having demanded it. The countess was ordered to go back to her father's house, and a maintenance was decreed from her husband's property.
The allowance made to her was 22,000 crowns a year, her husband's income being 120,000 crowns a year.
Byron says on this occasion he offered any settlement, but it was refused. The “dama" went to reside at a villa of Count Gamba, fifteen miles distant from Ravenna, and there she was occasionally visited by Byron.
In July, 1821, the old Count Gamba, and his son, Count Pietro Gamba, the father and brother of Madame Guiccioli, as suspected chiefs of the Carbonari, were ordered to quit Ravenna, where the countess was then residing. The two Gambas proceeded to Florence, and there were joined by the countess. In the following month of August she was established at Pisa, in the Casa Lanfranchi, an ancient palace which had been just taken by Byron. In the latter part of September, 1822, Lord Byron and the countess removed to Genoa, and took the Villa Saluzzi at Albaro, one of the suburbs of the city.
On the 13th of July, 1823, his lordship embarked for Greece. On the morning of that day Madame Guiccioli parted with him, never more to behold him.
Of that parting no particulars are to be found in the “Memoirs,” by Moore, the “ Conversations,” by Lady Blessington, or, indeed, in any other account of Byron and his affairs in Italy.