Imatges de pÓgina


excessive vanity of the physician did not excite his merriment and ridicule.

Moore has given us many instances of the strange caprices of this young man, of the illtimed sarcasms, and of the unwarrantable liberties he otherwise indulged in towards his patron, which had precisely the opposite effect of drawing them closer together.

Dr. Polidori appears not to have been without the ability to render himself a useful member of the profession to which he was attached, but his ambition to excel as a poet far outstripped his power for the task.

He had probably imbibed his taste for letters from his father, who had officiated, in early life, as the secretary of Alfieri, but the court he paid to the Muses met with very indifferent success, though he pursued them with great importunity. Among the results of his labours in this direction was a tragedy, which, producing one evening at Shelley's, he insisted they should undergo the operation of hearing read, and Byron, to lighten the infliction, undertook the task of reader. All the gravity of the company was called forth on this trying occasion, while the Doctor kept jealous watch on

[ocr errors]


every countenance, and the reader's only resource against the outbreak of his own laughter lay in lauding, from time to time, most vehemently, the sublimity of the verses ; adding, at the close of every such eulogy, “I assure you, when I was in the Drury Lane Committee, much worse things were offered to us.

But, while the Doctor conducted himself towards his patron in the manner described, he took still less pains to dissemble his jealous pique against Shelley, which was continually exhibiting itself in the most intemperate and overbearing manner; and, on one occasion, , taking it into his head that Shelley had treated him with contempt for beating him in a sailingmatch, went so far, in consequence, notwithstanding Shelley's known sentiments against duelling, as to proffer him a sort of challengeat which, as might be expected, the poet only laughed. Lord Byron, however, fearing that the vivacious physician might still further take advantage of this peculiarity of his friend, said to him, “Recollect, that though Shelley has some scruples about duelling, I have none; and

* Moore's Life of Byron.


shall be, at all times, ready to take his place."*

The mortification of Polidori was completed, by the plan he now understood the two poets had formed of making a tour of the Lake, unaccompanied by him, whereupon he indulged in some intemperate remonstrances, which Lord Byron indignantly resented.

This was likely to have ended in some fatal consequences, for the usual bounds of courtesy being passed on both sides, the dismissal of the physician seemed inevitable, even to himself. The prospect of such a result so preyed upon his mind, that, retiring to his own room, he had already drawn forth the poison from his medicine-chest, and was pausing before he took it, to consider whether he should write a letter, when Byron (without, however, the least suspicion of his intention) tapped at the door, and entered with his hand held forth in sign of reconciliation. This unlooked-for kindness created such a revulsion of feeling in the mind of Polidori, that he burst into tears, and a reconciliation was at once effected. + Doubtless these vexations had the effect of whetting the appetite of the two poets for each other's society, and enabled them to appreciate it the better, when they could escape from the physician. They had jointly become the owners of a small sailing boat, fitted, says Moore, to stand the usual squalls of the climate, and, at the same time, the only keeled boat on the Lake. In this they projected a voyage round the Lake without him, intending to visit every place of interest on its romantic shores ; and already anticipated all the pleasure to be derived from the uninterrupted intercourse of their own congenial natures, during such a voyage.

* Moore's Life of Byron. t Ibid.


Voyage of Byron and Shelley round the Lake-Arrival

at Hermance-At Nerni-At Evian-At Meillerie The Nouvelle Heloise-Departure from Meillerie—A squall on the Lake-Conduct of Lord Byron-Shel. ley's resignation—Safe arrival at St. „Gingoux-Visit to the Castle of Chillon-Arrival at Clarens-The Bosquet de Julie-Arrival at Lausanne-The prisoners of Chillon-Return to Mont Alegre.

LEAVING Polidori behind them to exercise his gallantry towards the ladies, and to teach them Italian, the two poets steered off from Mont Alegre soon after mid-day, on the 23rd of June. It was a bright clear day, and the calm waters of the Lake, smooth as a mirror, reflected the unclouded canopy of heaven. Arriving at Hermance, after three hours' rowing, they visited

« AnteriorContinua »