XVII. SURVIVORS

Of those who had played a part in Byron’s drama, most survived far into the next epoch of history. Soonest to pass was Pietro Gamba; after escorting his hero’s body to London he returned to Greece, remained faithful to the revolution, and died there of fever in 1827. —Lady Caroline Lamb became “very ill” when her husband told her that Byron’s corpse had passed her; she had satirized him in a novel, Glenarvon (1816), but now she said, “I am very sorry I ever said one unkind word against him.”158 She survived him by less than four years. —Augusta Leigh inherited, by Byron’s will, nearly all (some one hundred thousand pounds) that remained of his fortune; spent most of it paying the gambling debts of her husband and her sons, and died in poverty in 1852.159 —Lady Byron kept to the end some tenderness for the man whose inherited devils had cursed her marriage; “As long as I live,” she wrote, “my chief difficulty will probably be not to remember him too kindly.”160 “Can I not be believed when, after all which I have disclosed, I say there was a higher better being in that breast throughout, … one which he was always defying, but never could destroy?”161 Their daughter Ada, on whose development Byron had set such hopes, married the second Earl of Lovelace, lost a fortune gambling on horses, was saved from financial disaster by her mother, lost hope and health, and died, like her father, at the age of thirty-six (1852); Lady Byron, trying to fill her lonely life with social services, died in 1860.

John Cam Hobhouse entered Parliament as a radical, rose to be secretary at war (1832–33), became a baron, and died in 1869 at the age of eightythree. Teresa Guiccioli, after Byron’s death, returned to her husband, but soon applied for, and received, a second separation. She had brief affairs with Byron’s lame friend Henry Fox, and with Byron’s admirer the French poet Lamartine. Falling with light grace from suitor to suitor, she married, at forty-seven, the wealthy and amiable Marquis de Boissy, who (according to a slightly prejudiced English view) proudly introduced her as “my wife, the former mistress of Byron.” When the Marquis died she took up spiritualism, talked with the spirits of Byron and her late husband, and reported that “they are together now, and are the best of friends.”162 She died in 1873, aged seventy-two, after writing several books portraying Byron as an almost flawless genius and gentleman. —Claire Clairmont died in 1879, aged eighty-one, carrying to the end a view of Byron as “the merest compound of vanity, folly, and every miserable weakness that ever met together in one human being.”163

Mary Shelley, despite some hurts, kept a more favorable view of “Albé” (as his circle had nicknamed Byron); when she learned of his death she wrote: “Albé—the dear, capricious, fascinating Albé—has left this desert world! God grant that I may die young!”164She spent much of her remaining twenty-seven years editing her husband’s works with love and care, and a quiet eloquence of her own.

Leigh Hunt, who had dared to praise Shelley’s poetry when nearly all critics condemned it as the vagaries of an unfinished adolescence, remained faithful to his youthful radicalism, wrote hostile memories of Byron, and lasted till 1859. Thomas Jefferson Hogg, after outliving various infatuations, married Williams’ widow Jane, and lived with her the last thirty-five years of his life. The most remarkable of these epigoni was Edward John Trelawny, who came into Shelley’s life at Pisa, when both were entering their thirtieth year. Shelley was nearing his end, Trelawny had still fiftynine years to live. But already this “knight-errant, … dark, handsome, and mustachioed” (as Hunt described him), had had so many adventures, in so many countries, that his reminiscences never bored his new friends. Though Byron made him master of the horse and of Bolivar, it was Shelley, this “mild-mannered, beardless boy,” whom this man of action learned most to love. After seeing Byron safely arrived but immobilized at Missolonghi, he went off to seek his own fate, expecting to die in the cause of Greece. He saw Greece liberated, resumed his wandering, lived till 1881, and was buried in the grave that he had bought in 1822, next to Shelley’s ashes in the English cemetery at Rome.

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