George Gordon, Lord Byron
His lordship's next poems were, Lara, The Siege of Corinth, and Parisina; the two last of which appeared in February, 1816; and, in the following April, he again left England, having previously published The Sketch, and his celebrated Fare-thee-well. He set out upon his travels in no very dejected state of mind, which may be accounted for by an observation in one of his letters, that agitation or contest of any kind gave a rebound to his spirits, and set him up for the time.' After reaching France, he crossed the field of Waterloo, and proceeded by the Rhine, to Switzerland, where he became acquainted with Shelley; and, whilst at Geneva, began the composition of a poem founded on his recent separation; but hearing that his wife was ill, he threw the manuscript into the fire. From Switzerland he proceeded to Italy, where he resided principally at Venice, and transmitted thence to London his third and fourth cantos of Childe Harold, the Prisoner of Chillon, and other poems, Manfred, and The Lament of Tasso. He also wrote, in that city, his Ode to Venice, and Beppo, which he is said to have finished at a sitting. His mode of living is accurately described in his own letters from Italy, which show him to have been equally candid and shameless in the confession of his amours. The first connexion he formed was with the wife of a linen-draper, in whose house he lodged; and highly censurable, says Mr. Moore, as was his course of life, while under the roof of this woman, 'it was venial, in comparison with the strange, head-long career of license, to which he subsequently so unrestrainedly and defyingly abandoned himself.' It will be unnecessary, after this admission from his most partial biographer, to say more than, that, after a gross and de grading course of libertinism, his desires were contracted into a passion for the Countess Guiccioli; with whom he first became acquainted in the April of 1819, and, in a few months, he became her acknowledged paramour. In the same year he was visited, at Venice, by Mr. Moore, to whom he made a present of the memoirs, which have been before alluded to. He brought them in, says Mr. Moore, one day, in a white leather bag, and holding it up, said, look here; this would be worth something to Murray, though you, I dare say, would not give sixpence for What is it?' - ‘ My life and adventures: - it is not a thing, that can be published during my life-time, but you may have it, if you like, - there, do whatever you please with it.' In giving the bag, continues Mr. Moore, he added, you may show it to any of our friends you think worthy of it.'
The Countess Guiccioli having gone back to Ravenna, at her husband's desire, lord Byron was about to return to England, when a letter from his inamorata changed his mind, and he resumed his connexion with her, on her separation from her husband, which took place, on an understanding that she should in future reside with her father, Count Gamba. She accordingly, in July 1820, removed from Ravenna to the count's villa, a distance of about fifteen miles from the city, where our poet now took up his abode, visiting Madam Guiccioli once or twice in a month. After he had been about a twelvemonth at Ravenna, the state of the country began to render it unsafe for him to remain there any longer; and the Gambas (the father and brother of the Countess Guiccioli) having been exiled, he was induced to remove with them to Pisa, in the autumn of 1821. It appears, that he was himself suspected of having secretly joined the Carbonari; but, though such was the fact, and he had received warnings to discontinue his forest rides, he, as he observes, was not to be bullied,' and did not quit Ravenna till he had shown the authorites he was not afraid of remaining. His poetical productions, within the three last years, were, Mazeppa, his tragedies of Marino Faliero, the Two Foscari, and Sardanapalus, The Prophecy of Dante, Cain, and several cantos of Don Juan, the sixteenth canto of which he completed at Pisa. At this place he also wrote Werner, The Deformed Transformed, Heaven and Earth, and the celebrated Vision of Judgment; the two last of which appeared in The Liberal, the joint production of himself, Mr. Shelley, and Mr. Leigh Hunt, who had joined his lordship at Pisa. Of this periodical it is unnecessary to say more, in this, place, than that it failed after the fourth number, and gave rise to a prosecution against the publisher, on account of The Vision of Judgment.
An affray with some soldiers of Pisa, who, for some reason or other, had attempted to arrest our poet, and some other Englishmen, induced him to remove, with the Gambas, to Leghorn, and, subsequently, to Geneva, where he took up his residence, in September, 1822. The fervor of his attachment had now, probably, declined towards the Countess Guiccioli; and, anxious for more stirring scenes than those in which he had hitherto mixed, he engaged in a correspondence with the leaders of the insurrection in Greece, which ended in his departure for that country, in the summer of 1823. He has been censured by some for quitting Italy without having made a provision for his mistress, but it seems that she had refused to accept of any upon what terms they parted is doubtful; for according to Mr. Galt, a friend of his was told, by the lady herself, that she had not come to hate lord Byron, but she feared more than loved him.' Her brother, however, Count Gamba, accompanied his lordship to Cephalonia, where he equipped forty Suliotes to assist in the defense of Missolonghi, and undertook to provide a loan of L12,000 for the equipment of a fleet against the Turks.