Chateaubriand's memoirs, XXXIX, 16

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XXXIX, 15 << Chateaubriand's memoirs >> XXXIX, 17

Mémoires d'Outre-tombe

Book XXXIX, chapter 16
A Soirée at Madame Albrizzi’s – Lord Byron according to Madame Albrizzi

Venice, the 10th to the 17th of September 1833.

After dinner I dressed in order to spend the evening at the home of Madame Teotochi Albrizzi, the spiritual author of the Rittrati so warmly praised by Monsieur Denon at a time when my name was scarcely known among travellers. Monsieur Gamba had resolved to present me to the celebrated Signora. I was annoyed: to go out at nine in the evening, at the hour when I go to bed, that is, when I go late! But what does one not do for Venice?

Madame Albrizzi is a pleasant elderly lady, of an imaginative countenance. I found a crowd of men at her salon, almost all of them professors and scholars. Among the women, there was a newly married lady rather beautiful; but too grand, a Venetian of ancient family, with a pale face and dark eyes, a somewhat mocking and sulky air, in all quite caustic; and she lacked the most seductive of graces, she never smiled. Another woman with a kind appearance scared me less; I dared to chat to her. She had travelled in Switzerland, and had been to Florence; she was ashamed never to have visited Rome. ‘But you know, we Italians remain where we are.’ One might well have remained with her.

Madame Albrizzi told me all about Lord Byron; she was the more infatuated with him, because he had come to her soirées. His Lordship spoke to neither the English nor French, but exchanged a few words with the Venetians and only them. His Lordship was never seen walking in St Mark’s Square, because of his lameness. Madame Albrizzi claimed that when he entered her rooms, he had a certain trick of walking by means of which he concealed his limp. Decidedly he was a fine swimmer. He had given Madame Albrizzi a portrait of himself. In the miniature, Childe Harold is charming, quite young, or quite rejuvenated; he displays a naïve and childlike character. Nature perhaps made him thus; then a disposition born of some misfortune, seizing hold of his spirit, produced the famous Byron. Madame Albrizzi affirms that in moments of intimacy one found in him the man portrayed in his works. He considered himself scorned by his nation and for that reason detested it: he lacked esteem with the Venetian people because of his wild behaviour.

Canova gave Madame Albrizzi, Greek by birth, a bust of Helen: I was shown it by torchlight.

Madame Albrizzi had seen me, she said, in the amphitheatre of Verona and claimed to have picked me out amidst the Kings. I was so stunned by so fine a compliment that I departed at eleven to the great amazement of the Venetians. It was high time; sleep was overcoming me and I had exhausted my wit: one must never spend one’s last idea or one’s last franc. Speaking of francs, Law died and was buried in Venice: I felt like going and asking him for some of those excellent bank-notes to fund the Legitimacy and a land-concession for myself among the Natchez.