George Byron | Authentic Venetian

by Pieralvise Zorzi



The question spontaneously arises: to be Venetian, even more, #AuthenticVenetian, you need to be born in Venice?

The answer is no.

Being an #AuthenticVenetian is a state of the soul, a mix of love for Venice and a peculiar mix of exuberant vitality and intellectual wit.

The proof is Lord George Gordon, sixth Baron of Byron.

Palazzo Mocenigo of the family branch that descended from Doge Giovanni and most of all from Doge Alvise I, the Lepanto battle Doge, is really a block of four palaces: the first is called “casa Nuova”, the two twins in the middle “Il Nero” and the last “Casa Vecchia”, this last being really the newest. 

This formidable complex has hosted the Bishop of Winchester, uncle of King Henry III of England, the winner of Mühlberg battle Emanuele Filiberto di Savoia, Giordano Bruno, later reported to the Inquisition by his landlord Giovanni Mocenigo. Then again Lady Alathea Arundel, wife to the Lord Marshal of England, secretly involved in the tragic political mistake  that led to the execution and posthumous exoneration of Senator Antonio Foscarini.

A photo by Carlo Naya before the recent structural changes

But the palace is even more famous because in its halls, in September 1818, accompanied by his butler Fletcher, two monkeys, five cats, eight dogs, a crow, a hawk, two parrots and a fox, George Byron set up his house.

The poet had become rich after having sold his ancestral home, Newstead Abbey, for the enormous sum of £ 97.500: thus he could afford to pay £ 200 a month for the rental of the Palace.

Like Casanova, he is a compulsive womanizer, judging from his letters to his friends Hobhouse and Kinnaird, a real Don Juanesque catalogue. He writes with abundance of particulars about the singer Arpalice Tarruscelli, “ firm and sensual bodied”, the Da Mosti, the only one that gave him a “gonorrhoea for which I did not have to pay”, the Spineda, the Lotti, the Rizzato, Eleonora, Carlotta, Giulietta, the Alvisi, the Zambieri, Eleonora da Bezzi who says she’s been lover of  Gioacchino Murat King of Naples, the singer Arpalice Tarruscelli and so on, of all age and class, as he, Don Juan and Leporello at the same time, tells.

Even the then aged Marina Querini Benzon, then so fat that the merciless gondoliers called her “stramazzo despontà”, broken mattress, appears in front of him stark naked asking for his “homage”: a perfect gentleman, he obliges. It is said that the palace had two doors: one for the girls from the Castello Sestiere, the other from the ones from Cannaregio.

Among all these women, anyway, a dictator comes:  the famous Margherita Cogni , the “little baker girl”, who will settle in Byron’s home, under the beautiful panelled ceiling that will be taken away by Feldmarshal Göring in 1944. She pushed around everybody in the house and Byron, who calls her “The Moor of Venice” for her dark hair and eyes, is not able to get rid of her and her mad jealousy.

She fights tooth and nails with Marietta, Byron’s first Venetian Love, repeatedly  beats the house’s women, intercepts his letters, demands plumed hats and dresses with a tail, and when Byron succeeds in sending her away she puts up a terrible scene, tries to knife him then jumps into the Gran Canal, only to be fished out unscathed.

Margherita Cogni in a 1817 engraving

Anyway, notwithstanding his amorous exertions and his long- distance swims – he won an epic challenge on a five miles swim from Lido to the end of the Grand Canal – Byron writes all night at his desk , eating only a handful of rice and drinking some water and gin.

He writes his Beppo, the two dramas Marino Faliero and the Two Foscari, the fourth Canto of his Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, thus creating not only the name of the Bridge of Sighs (A palace and a prison on each hand), but  the nineteenth century vision of the city, that will influence all the successive visitors: Ruskin, Dickens, James, Proust, Thomas Mann, and all the less known visitors that came to Venice with the Baedeker (himself influenced by Byron) in one hand and Childe Harold in the other.

In the “Salotto” of Marina Benzòn he is introduced to his last love, Teresa Guiccioli: for her he will leave Venice forever, only to meet years later his tragic destiny in Missolungi. His funeral will be attended by a funeral procession of forty-seven carriages, all dressed in mourning, all empty.

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I testi e le immagini inserite nei post sono solo in parte opere degli autori degli articoli e loro proprietà.

Immagini e testi sono talvolta tratte dal web indicando, dove possibile, fonte e autore e vengono pubblicate per scopi esclusivamente illustrativi, nel rispetto del comma 1-bis dell’articolo 70 della legge n. 633 del 22 aprile 1941, “Protezione del diritto d’autore e di altri diritti connessi al suo esercizio”.
Qualora la loro pubblicazione violasse specifici diritti di autore, si prega di comunicarlo per la tempestiva rimozione.