Jousting for the honour of Greece and 'a certain Miss Phrosyne': Baron Byron and Gally Knight clash over costume, correctness, and a princess.
This article attempts to rescue Henry Gally Knight (1786-1846), architectural writer and antiquary, from the footnotes of literary history. Few Romantic writers of Oriental verse tales travelled to the East, and the work of this friend of Walter Scott and William Wilberforce, patron of Turner, and contemporary of Byron's at Cambridge warrants reconsideration. The article compares redactions of the Kyra Phrosine story, footnoted in Byron's The Giaour: A Fragment of a Turkish Tale and featured in Knight's Phrosyne: A Grecian Tale, to show how this beautiful victim of Asiatic arbitrary power became central to the Greek fight for independence.
In a letter from Venice of Thursday, 8 January 1818, Byron penned a joking 'Epistle to Mr. Murray' in response to his publisher's 'damned hurry' to receive the last canto of Childe Harold. Byron seizes the opportunity to survey the current London literary scene and, with a knowing nod to Pope's epistle To Mr Murray, (1) which opens: 'Not to Admire, is all the Art I know', treats a rival Oriental talesman to a drubbing:
In the mean time you've 'Galley' Whose verses all tally, Perhaps you may say he's a Ninny, But if you abashed are Because of 'Alashtar', He'll piddle another 'Phrosine'. (ll. 13-18) (2)
His piddling target is the knight of my title: Henry Gally Knight (1786-1846), a close friend of Walter Scott and William Wilberforce, a patron of and provider of sketches for Turner, and a contemporary of Byron's at Cambridge. Also in Murray's stable, Knight was the author of Ilderim: A Syrian Tale (1816) and Phrosyne: A Grecian Tale. Alashtar: An Arabian Tale (1817). The violence of Byron's vituperation is generally in a direct ratio to his fears of competition, and when one learns that Knight had travelled as a young man through Spain, Sicily, Greece, Albania, Egypt, (3) Palestine, and Syria, and thus outdone Milord in Orientalist wanderings and on-the-spotness, one begins to comprehend the significance of the animus.
The interrelationship is complicated, however, by the fact that just over four years earlier, in December 1813, Byron had acted as the wide awake and admiring reader for Murray of an unattributed manuscript of one of Knight's Oriental verse tales:
I have redde through your Persian tale, and have taken the liberty of making some remarks on ye. blank pages--There are many beautiful passages and an interesting story; and I cannot give a stronger proof that such ismy opinion, than by the date of the hour 2 o'clock--till which it has kept me awake, without a yawn.--The conclusion is not quite correct in costume: there is no Mussulman suicide on record--at least for love. But this matters not--the tale must be written by some one--who has been on the spot--and
I wish him--& he deserves success.--Will you apologise to the author for the liberties I have taken with his MS.--had I been less awake to, & interested in his theme--I had been less obtrusive--but you know I always take this in good part--& I hope he will. It is difficult to say what will succeed--& and still more to pronounce what will not--I am at this moment in that uncertainty--(on our own score) & it is no small proof of the author's powers--to be able to charm & fix a mind's attention on similar subjects and climates in such a predicament--that he may have the same effect upon all his readers is very sincerely the wish--and hardly the doubt, of yours truly, B. (4)
This would seem as positive a report as might be hoped for--from the horse's mouth of the Oriental verse tale, who had pointed out only that August to Thomas Moore that 'the public are orientalizing'. (5) But can we be certain that Byron had been reading Henry Gally Knight? Marchand throws some doubt upon Prothero's assumption that Knight's Ilderim: A Syrian Tale was the subject of Byron's praise as it was simply not a 'Persian Tale'; nor was it published until 1816. Furthermore when it did appear, 'Byron spoke slightingly of it to Moore (March 25, 1817), and to Murray on the same day.' (6) I feel we can discount Marchand's first objection, as Byron might well be using the term 'Persian' generically; as for the second, Knight subsequently explains in an Advertisement that the publication of all three of his Oriental tales was delayed. (7) Some explanation for the apparent inconsistency marked by Byron's later ridicule of Knight's work will be part of the subject of this article.
In my opinion there is little doubt that exactly what charmed and fixed Byron's attention was the verse of Gally Knight.Moore, who would have subsequently learnt the truth from Murray, if not from Byron himself, also asserts that the manuscript was of Gally Knight's work. There is also a significant piece of internal evidence that Prothero's assumption was correct. Byron's single criticism is one of 'costume': 'there is no Mussulman suicide on record--at least for love', which can be seen to refer to the black and self-destructive thoughts of Ilderim. Believing that his beloved Elmyra is dead, Ilderim's whole raison d'etre is to wreak vengeance on the usurping Abdallagh; this having been achieved, he laments:
'Where is the friend shall do as much for me? Oh! for a kindly sword, to set the victor free!' (Ilderim, iv. 16, ll. 809-10)
I suppose the acid test might consist in whether this 'Syrian Tale' would keep one awake without the aid of matchsticks. Reader response varies across the centuries, but we may glean a contemporary opinion from the anonymous reviewer of the Philadelphia periodical the Analectic Magazine, who usefully provides a comparison between our two poets:
We certainly think that some of his [Gally Knight's] poetry is polished into more smoothness than that of his lordship; but neither in his language nor in his thoughts is he so rich or so copious as the author of Childe Harold's Pilgrimage. Both have chosen the same stanza:--the poem of the latter contains about twice as many lines as that of the former; and we might observe that a work like The Pilgrimage ought to be twice as short, while one like Ilderim should be twice as long as it is. This difference does not result from any intrinsic superiority in the poetry of the latter,--but from the advantage of containing an eventful story which is calculated to keep the attention constantly awake. For a poem, indeed, which professes to describe the country in which the scene is laid, the adventures of the dramatis personae of Ilderim compose too great a proportion of its stanzas.
Gally Knight is no Byron, but neither is he the piddling piss-artist of a poet that Byron would later try to make him seem. According to the Monthly Review, Knight stands '"at the very head and front"' of a class of '"highly respectable writers"' occupying 'the middle reaches of poetry', where there is 'much to admire and comparatively little to condemn', and whose style is characterized by 'the refined, the elegant and the more tamely classical'. (10) This would seem a fair--if slightly patronizing--account, but it does little to explain Ilderim's ability to 'charm & fix' the attention of Byron's mind.
In order to suggest an answer we should remind ourselves of the chronology here. Byron was writing to Murray concerning his late-night reading on Saturday, 4 December 1813, two days after the publication of his second Turkish Tale, The Bride of Abydos; a day after reading a 'very savage but certainly uncommonly well written' review of The Giaour, his still-serpentining first, in the Christian Observer; and in the midst of worrying whether Mohammed was buried at Mecca or Medina. (11) In short, he was very much in uncertainties concerning 'what will succeed--& and [...] what will not'. In the wee small hours of Saturday night an anonymous manuscript by someone 'who has been on the spot' was giving him ideas.
I include two of Gally Knight's Spenserian stanzas to provide a sample of what was keeping Byron awake. Here is the 'Knightian hero' described in all his dark lightning, not by a fisherman/narrator, but by one Syrian heroine (Azza, daughter of the tyrant usurper Abdallagh) to another (her bosom friend Elmyra, niece to the deposed Emir, who is shortly to realize that 'Ilderim' is her lover Caled, long thought dead):
'His eye was cold for all it look'd upon; So cold, that from its glance I sunk aside: He seem'd to gaze on woman as on stone. Some secret grief, which he in vain would hide, Beneath the mask of an obdurate pride Weighs on his soul; for, as he stood, my shield, At times he watch'd me silently, and sigh'd; Then paler looks and quivering lips reveal'd A troubled storm within that scarce would be conceal'd.'
'Mysterious still! but wears he on his face The blazon of his savage trade defin'd?' 'Ah! no--he beams with each severer grace; Nature has fix'd the stamp of noble mind On his majestic brow--he looks design'd To rule, extending blessings with his sway:-- But grief has class'd him with the sterner kind: E'en thus the sun, obscur'd his cloudy way, Less than himself appears, and half dispenses day.'
(Ilderim, III. 16-17, ll. 577-94)
In the absence of any secure date of composition, it would seem foolhardy to suggest the exact extent of Byronic influence upon these stanzas. If this is part of the poem which Byron read late in 1813, it might be significant that in his letter to Murray he fails to suggest that Knight is indulging in the sincerest form of flattery. On the publication of Ilderim in 1816, however, this thought certainly occurs to the reviewer of the British Lady's Magazine:
Ilderim, like many other recent productions, is evidently a spark from the fire of Byron, but wants the soul-breathing energy of that gifted genius in the delineation of marked character. The fierce Abdallagh, and the fiercer Ilderim, are of the general contour of Turkish tyranny and virtue; that is to say, another version of Barbarossa and Selim. (12)
The British Lady's reviewer manages to complicate things with this mention of Selim: the reference is not to the Gulchenrouz-inspired lover of Zuleika in The Bride of Abydos, but to the son of the Bey of Algeria, murdered and usurped by Horuc Barbarossa, the son of a Turkish potter from Mytilene in Lesbos. Some clarification is forthcoming from another periodical, the Augustan Review, which, having praised Knight's handling of the Spenserian stanza, explains that the plot 'bears a resemblance to the story of Dr. Brown's tragedy of Barbarossa'. (13)
Barbarossa (1755) is an accomplished play, but its somewhat ineffective young hero, Selim, lacks the intensity and alluring alienation of Ilderim (Arabic for 'lightning'). It is possible that Byron, like these two critics, was also put in mind of Dr Brown's play and--perversely--was more drawn to the colourful tyrant Barbarossa. Certainly, in a journal entry of 22 November 1813 he longs for 'a little tumult' or any 'agreeable quickener of sensation':
such as a revolution, a battle, or an aventure of any lively description. I think I rather would have been Bonneval, Ripperda, Alberoni, Hayreddin, or Horuc Barbarossa, or evenWortleyMontagu, than Mahomet himself. (14)
This, perhaps, indicates the tack the Byronic poet-hero was shortly to take, for Horuc Barbarossa and his brother Hayruddin were barbary pirates or Turkish Mohammedan corsairs, 'the friends of the sea and the enemies of all who sail on it', as they described themselves. (15)
Exactly two weeks to the day after his late-night letter to Murray, on Saturday, 18 December 1813, Byron began what was to prove his best-selling Turkish Tale, TheCorsair. He had the name 'Conrad' from his reading of Sismondi and, possibly, he had from Gally Knight: firstly, the idea of introducing two heroines, whose differing perspectives provide an element of psychological intricacy; and, secondly, the dramatic saving of the haram. When Ilderim/Caled had slain the usurping Abdallagh, who literally bites the dust ('Furious in death, he bites the reckless plain' (IV. 15, l. 798)), he is just entertaining self-destructive--and, for Byron, costume-damaging--thoughts, when a dying soldier arrests his attention. Determined to do some good in order to alleviate the frown of Azrael, the angel of death, he informs Caled of Abdallagh's order that--if he were to be killed--all the haram are 'doom'd to bleed'. The arrival of Caled and his men in the seraglio effects a satisfying climacteric in which the assassins rather than the inmates welter in their own blood, and Caled's reunion with Elmyra is accompanied by mutual amazement.
Knight is principally concerned with illustrating vengeance, and it is significant that all the characters--the good, the bad, and the beautiful--in his Ilderim (as in Alashtar: An Arabian Tale (1817)) are Oriental. Byron, of course, in his critique of empire, is not particularly interested in doing this (TheBride of Abydos is an exception, although Selim, the son of an infidel mother, was 'Greek in soul if not in creed'), and his oppositions between west and east, however dramatic, sometimes dangerously underscore age-old ethnocentric stereotypes. (16) The single Knight poem which does oppose Occidental and Oriental representations is his Phrosyne: A Grecian Tale (1817), which, he claims, was written in 1811. It was the completion of this poem that led to Knight's renewing his acquaintance with Byron. (17)
In a letter dated 21 March 1813 Gally Knight writes to his Trinity College contemporary:
You will doubtless be surprised at the receipt of a letter from me, but, I trust, when you have read it, you will acquit me of the charge of unwarrantable intrusion.
Rumour has said that you have lately been employed in the celebration of a Janina story. What is that to me? you will naturally exclaim, and what business have I to ask any questions on the subject? The point is this. During the long hours of a wearisome confinement, I have also been endeavouring to amuse the time with the versification of a Janina story, and I am anxious to know whether, since we are ranged over the same manor, we have put up the same Game. So far am I from having the vanity to wish to enter the lists with you and break a lance in honor of the same Lady, that if I had found we had been engaged on the same subject, I would at once fly further East, and chuse another. I don't ask you to tell me what your subject is. I will tell you mine, and you will perhaps have the goodness to inform me whether we have or have not clash'd. My story is one which I dare say you heard, as I did in Albania--the adventures of a certain Miss Phrosyne, whom Ali Pasha wish'd to get into his Haram, but her relations put her to death, to save her from infamy. The said Ali's cruelties have given rise to so many tragedies that very likely you have chosen another. (18)
Knight has heard, presumably fromMurray, that Byron, who had completed the first draft of The Giaour only nine days earlier (12 March), (19) had been writing his first Oriental tale and, on learning that it dealt with the drowning in a sack of a young woman, understandably thought that Byron had been versifying the 'Janina story' of Kyra Phrosine. Knight's use of the present perfect continuous ('I have also been') to refer to his composition of Phrosyne: A Grecian Tale does not necessarily clash with his statement that the poem was written in 1811, as he was presumably preparing it for the press. It is interesting that he expresses a polite willingness to abandon the project and, in a locution that might just have irritated Byron, 'fly further East' in pursuit of another subject. There is a certain 'On Guard![edness]' of tone about the letter in its movement between the gentry image of rival shooting parties (in which the unfortunate Phrosyne morphs into plump pheasant (20)) and the knightly feudal references to jousting in defence of her honour. (21)
There is, unfortunately, no extant record of Byron's reply but, almost exactly a year later, Byron is employing a Giaffir-like condescension towards Gally Knight while he uses him as a spur to encourage Tom Moore not to abandon Lalla Rookh. In his postscript to a letter of 12March 1814, he writes:
P.S.--Think again before you shelf your Poem. There is a youngster (older than me, by the by, but a younger poet), Mr. G. Knight, with a vol. of Eastern Tales, written since his return,--for he has been in the countries. He sent to me last summer, and I advised him to write one in each measure, without any intention, at that time, of doing the same thing. Since that, from a habit of writing in a fever, I have anticipated him in a variety of measures, but quite unintentionally. Of the stories, I know nothing, not having seen them; but he has some lady in a sack, too, like the Giaour:--he told me at the time. (22)
There is much here of importance in terms of Byron's developing relationship with the 'youngster' Knight but, for the moment, we should concentrate on the 'lady in a sack'. If Byron is referring to Gally Knight's letter of 21March 1813, his recall is faulty as Knight had clearly stated: 'her relations put her to death'. Unusually Knight's heroine is not drowned 'in a sack'. This is not the Circassian Leila of the Levantine 'coffee-house story-tellers', but the Ioanninite Phrosine, a historical figure who became a legendary heroine of Greek rebellion, whom Byron had relegated to the final endnote of The Giaour:
The circumstance to which the above story relates was not very uncommon in Turkey. A few years ago the wife of Muchtar Pacha complained to his father of his son's supposed infidelity: he asked with whom, and she had the barbarity to give in a list of the twelve handsomest women in Yanina. They were seized, fastened up in sacks, and drowned in the lake the same night! One of the guards who was present informed me, that not one of the victims uttered a cry, or showed a symptom of terror at so sudden a 'wrench from all we know, all we love'. The fate of Phrosine, the fairest of this sacrifice, is the subject of many a Romaic and Arnaut ditty. (CPW, III, 422)
The beautiful dead Phrosine was declared a Christian martyr by the Orthodox Church and her death in 1801 at the hands of 'the Mahometan Buonaparte', (23) Ali Pasha of Yannina (1750-1822), became an enduring symbol of Greek resistance to hated Ottoman rule. This politically potent image of Greece as silenced objectified woman, apparently the victim of Asiatic arbitrary power, became central to the fight for independence, and there are numerous redactions of this narrative to be found in Greek sources and philhellenic travel writing. (24)
Significant variations occur in respect of Phrosine's background: whether she was the object of Ali's or Muktar's infatuation (or indeed the focus of father-son rivalry); the circumstances of her detection; the number of women drowned; and even whether sacks were employed. (25) The important thing for those 'on the spot' was to have an eyewitness source. Byron had his anonymous 'guard'; Hobhouse had 'our attendant, Vasilly' (who claimed to be one of the executioners) and Giovanni Battista Lusieri, Lord Elgin's painter and agent; (26) and Captain William Martin Leake, the British Resident at Ali Pasha's court, had 'Kyr N.G', the husband of one of the victims. Leake's account mingles the prosaic details of Ali Pasha's personal involvement in the apprehending of these women--'From the house of G. he went on foot to that of Frosyni, which he entered at the back by climbing over a part of the neighbouring house'--with a species of Oriental Gothic:
[A]s Turkish custom requires darkness to be added to the other horrors of this mode of punishment, it was not until the following midnight, in the midst of one of those furious thunder-storms so common in Ioannina, that the women were collected in five or six boats, and not being inclosed in sacks according to the practice of Constantinople, the Albanians were under the necessity of using force when they clung to the sides of the monoxyla. (27)
Leake had arranged Byron's reception at Ali Pasha's court, but Byron had found the Captain 'taciturn' and ill-dressed, quite unlike himself, who wore 'a full suit of Staff uniform with a very magnificent sabre &c.'. Byron, of course, was more taken with that connoisseur of small ears and delicate fingers, Ali Pasha, his 'almonds & sugared sherbet', and all the tyrant's fatherly and/or pseudo-paedophile attentions. (28) But it was not a certain naive and star-struck admiration for the 'ever glorious' Ali Pasha that made Byron avoid a clear poetic focus on one of the very many 'deeds that lurk beneath, and stain him with disgrace'. (29) He is less concerned to portray an incident that blackens the Vizier than one which underscores his own heroic gallantry; for Byron, not Phrosine but Leila must emblematize 'living Greece no more'.
Interestingly, Captain Leake situates the home of Phrosine, not in Ioannina but some thirty miles south-east in the romantic mountain village of Kalarytes, a beautiful, verdurous, and well-watered location in the Pindus range. (30) Knight also places his Phrosyne in 'Callirete', stressing the spirited independence of her classical inheritance both in his Preface ('Callirete [...] may be considered as not entirely subdued') and in the poem:
No turban'd soldier, with insulting frown, Stalks through their streets, or awes the trembling town: Respected still, th' unviolated right, Grecians alone possess the Grecian height. (i. 17-20) (31)
Knight's scene-setting, like Leake's description, stresses 'crystal streams' and deep ravines, mountainous paths opening upon hidden woods and sheltered inwardness. His initial reference to the beauteous Phrosyne links loveliness and containment, the second rhyme of the containing couplet: 'bloom'd' responds to an anticipatory and ominous 'entomb'd':
'Twas there, within those wild retreats entomb'd, A lovely maid, the young Phrosyne, bloom'd. (I. 69-70)
As she leads the village maidens in the maze of classical dance, her song laments 'The lost delights of Freedom's brighter day' (I. 92), but the sympathetic thoughts of this Rousseauvian 'child of Nature' transcend the 'bounds' of her native fastnesses 'to mourn their hapless fate Who liv'd in bonds of tyranny or state' (I. 103-04). Contrasting her own liberty 'to rove from hill to hill', Phrosyne feels for the haram beauties of Turkey: 'The gilded idol of Oppression's care! [...] Breathes she the air?' (I. 108-11). Such empathy foreshadows her own tragedy as object of a Pasha's lust and her subsequent suffocating death.
Knight represents Phrosyne, not as the married woman which the historical character appears to have been, but as a maid, betrothed with customary ceremonial to a young man in whom the dignity of ancient Greece is mingled with its egalitarian tradition and demotic vigour; the son of an archon, his name is Demo. (32) This redaction makes no mention of young Muktar's love; it is Ali Pasha who, having seen her foremost in the dance, her classic Grecian robe enlivened by a fashionable Cashmire shawl, (33) thinks her 'some Houri' (i. 351), and secretly determines she will be queen of his haram. This enables Knight both to portray 'savage Lust amidst the frost of Age' (i. 273) and to accentuate the sexual/political contrasts between desirable youth/western ideals of liberty and repulsive age/Asiatic despotism. Ali Pasha feigns 'a virtue foreign to his heart', and in front of the village elders the 'arch-dissembler' promises Phrosyne a dowry:
'Whene'er the nuptial knot is duly ty'd That makes PHROSYNE DEMO's lovely bride,
From ALI's hands (thy second father now) Richly the portion of the bride shall flow!' (1. 412-15) (34)
Ali Pasha slyly awaits the annual departure of the young men from the village before sending troops to collect his prize. Knight uses his knowledge of local custom--specifically the Orientalized practice of forbidding the lovers contact between plighting and nuptial days--simultaneously to stress their grief and to anticipate her smothering. Phrosyne and Demo are effectively silenced by custom and deprived of a final embrace:
How swell their bosoms with the bursting woe, They may not utter--words that may not flow; A thousand anxious thoughts that, unexpress'd, Become a leaden burden to the breast. (II. 552-55)
Phrosyne's dream of marriage with Demo is destroyed by the arrival of soldiers; their leader speaks of Ali Pasha's love:
'But one so fair, that thus his soul can move He deems too precious for a vulgar love, In brighter scenes he bids her name be known-- And, for a Raya's love, he gives--his own!' (II. 750-53)
When desperate pleas and the village's gold are scorned, Phrosyne's mother takes refuge in a stoicism born of her Spartan blood:
'Dear as I hold my child, these doating eyes Would rather weep a daughter's obsequies; Would rather view her breathless at my feet Than see her go disgrace and crime to meet!' (II. 784-87)
The soldiers are bribed into allowing Phrosyne's relatives into the house and reluctantly permit an hour for final partings. Within and without the house 'Woman and Age--the Weakness of the land' are assembled, but strength of resolve unites the thoughts of every fearful mother:
'Who shall be safe if this be not withstood? What stays the tiger that has tasted blood?' (II. 858-9) (35)
Once again the tragically inevitable end is foreshadowed; this time in the description of the mother as she 'scorn'd a woman's part':
Clasp'd were her hands and loose her streaming hair; Her lips, that spoke not, seem'd to move in pray'r: But not a groan her inward woe exprest, And not a tear reliev'd the bursting breast. (II. 934-37)
Meanwhile her daughter's lips are so pale, her breast so still, that 'The kindred thought that death had dealt his blow' (II. 943). With a tragic irony, the young girl is reanimated by her courageous determination to die:
She, constant yet, and unsubdu'd alone Unfasten'd from her waist the silken zone-- The lover's gift! at this, the instruct'd train Nerv'd by Despair, nor fortified in vain, Wildly surrounded--o'er her face the maid Hurried her veil--the signal thus display'd, The friendly Furies rush'd. (II. 1006-12)
Saved and smothered by a fatally merciful love, Phrosyne's death is an assisted suicide, mingling euthanasia and autothanasia; it represents a self-sacrificial honour-killing of classical intensity. Knight had emphasized the political and geographical situation of Greece between Europe and Asia Minor, even referring to the acquisition of certain Oriental customs. However, unlike the Turkish tradition of honour-killing to protect namus (simultaneously female chastity and male honour at possessing chaste female relations)--or indeed, unlike the usual drowning of Phrosyne--where the killers are male, this horrific deed is both Grecian and gynaecian. Encirled and suffocated by female bodies and female garb, she is effectively smothered in her own zone and in Greek costume.
Knight's rendition of Phrosyne's death might well have inspired the various descriptions of female encirclement--both in terms of fabrics and of bodies--that surround Euphrosyne, a beautiful woman in the anonymously published novel of Thomas Hope, Anastasius; or, Memoirs of a Modern Greek (1819), which Murray published and Byron admired. This is not the celebrated Kyra Phrosine, but simply the object of Anastasius's determined desire. Hope simultaneously uses the modern connotations and the ancient resonance of the name in its full classical form. (36) When Anastasius, driven by curiosity and lust, invades the women's quarters, 'All the females set up a warning shout, rushed forward, threw a veil over Euphrosyne's still unconscious face, and formed round her person an impenetrable fence.' (37)
Leake's account of the death of Kyra Phrosine, as we have seen, involves the conventional drowning (in his Researches using the term 'noyade', infamous from Revolutionary Nantes), but it is interesting that in his Travels he refers to 'the famous [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.] [pniximon]', which seems only to have a subsidiary meaning of 'drowning', its main signification implying 'smothering or suffocating', especially of women. (38) Phrosyne, in Knight's redaction, is not passively manhandled into the 'all-strangling deep', nor is she suffocated by the patriarchy or smothered under the oppressive Tourkokratia; her death--ironically--is a triumph of agency, of self-assertion, and of philhellenism. (39) Ali Pasha's prize is her lifeless body brought out to his waiting banditti by these conquering 'mourners of a Spartan race':
'She comes!' the kindred cry'd--'O'erpast her woe, She comes, consenting now, and fix'd to go!' (II. 1020-21)
Appropriately, the final words are given to Helen, whose village pride animates her pan-Hellenic determination and reflects the strength of their home in the Pindus mountains, the very 'spine of Greece':
'And tell Albania's lord, that thus alone The Calliretian maids approach his throne!' (II. 1046-47)
I have considered Knight's Phrosyne in some detail as it has a certain historical importance as a powerfully philhellenic and apparently unique redaction of a tale which represented enduring propaganda in the struggle for independence. (40) It is a very different poem from The Giaour but, with its clear focus on much more than dead beauty or the self-glamorizing heroics of the Sligo note, the poem deserves to be better known as a representation of the resolute feminized space of the gynaikonitis; in Partridge parlance, it is by no means a 'piss poor' poem.
There is no extant immediate response from Byron to Gally Knight's letter of 21 March 1813 to reveal that the 'older' poet had not been writing 'the adventures of a certain Miss Phrosyne', but we know that Byron's reassurance must have involved sending Knight a pre-publication copy of The Giaour. On 5May 1813 Byron writes to express his pleasure that Knight liked 'the fragments', for 'a traveller can judge correctly of the costume of one's Orientalisms'. Byron's letter continues with a frustrating reference to a Greek writer who might well have been Knight's source for his version of the Phrosine story:
Pano Canarioti [?] is very good poetical--but not--matter of fact authority--it is however of no consequence to your purpose--both Hobhouse & myself had our account from an eye witness & performer in their scene. (41)
Byron is all genuine and practical encouragement: 'Your plan is new & excellent--[...] why not compose a tale in each [measure]--the Spenser--the lyric--and any--except perhaps blank verse?' Assuring the 'younger' poet that he will overcome his 'qualms', Byron recommends Murray as a publisher so that nothing will deter Knight from putting his poetry before the public and thus 'adding to your own reputation & to our pleasure'. Byron has heard excellent things of An Essay on Certain Points of Resemblance between the Ancient and Modern Greeks (1813) (42) byKnight's friend, the Hon. Frederick Sylvester North Douglas, which Murray was about to publish. (43) Byron is solicitous concerning Knight's health but, above all, the dominant note is one of 'come on in--the Oriental water's lovely': 'The more we have upon the East the better--it is a subject to which the world has betaken itself with great good humour--& one upon which you must feel still more interested than myself--inasmuch as you have seen more of it.' The world's 'good humour' is certainly not greater than that of Byron in most amiable mood; he cannot resist adding a most revealing postscript: 'Though I am no critic--I suppose you would not allow me to have a peek--I should of course keep all sacred & return any extract.'
Of course Byron has, as he was shortly to tell Moore, no 'literary envy', but he certainly has more than a little literary curiosity as to what such a rival might be up to. For Knight's travels--in the Middle as well as the Near East--had demolished Byron's singularity: more than 'one poet [had] travelled 'mongst the Turks'.
The next extant letter from Byron is one month short of two years later, of the 4 April 1815, by which time 'Dear Sir' has become 'Dear Knight'; in the place of warm encouragement we have substantial praise:
I have read 'Alashtar' with attention and great pleasure.--It appears to me preferable to the Yaniote but that may be owing to the measure which is a favourite of mine.--I have seen nothing to make me change the opinion already expressed--very little to alter--& hardly anything which is not--or may not be made very good.--I have always thought both the risk & the reward of publication (I don't mean pecuniary reward but fame & so forth) very much over-rated--&half imaginary--but I have seldom seen less ground for apprehension on the part of an author than in the poem before me.
Believe me very truly yr. obliged & affecte St. (44) 'Crede Byron' indeed--but do we? Or if we do, what had Byron seen to change his repeatedly expressed opinion so radically that two years later, on being sent the newly published Phrosyne: A Grecian Tale. Alashtar: An Arabian Tale (1817), he should write from the Palazzo Mocenigo to Murray:
By Mr. Rose I received safely, but tardily, magnesia and tooth-powder, Phrosine and Alashtar--I shall clean my teeth with one--and wipe my--not shoes with the other. Why do you send me such trash--worse than trash, the Sublime of Mediocrity! (45)
The next six months see a series of lampooning poems in which Byron makes Gally Knight a constant butt, a 'Ninny' who grinds out worse than middling, piddling poems. We opened with a stanza from one of them, sent to Murray on 8 January 1818, in which Knight was one of many literary targets, and the following famous lines from Beppo (the manuscript of which he sent Murray eleven days later) are obviously aimed at 'pretty Gally':
Oh that I had the art of easy writing What should be easy reading! could I scale Parnassus, where the Muses sit inditing Those pretty poems never known to fail, How quickly would I print (the world delighting) A Grecian, Syrian, or Assyrian tale; And sell you, mixed with western sentimentalism, Some samples of the finest Orientalism. (46)
Byron had started his piss-taking pasquinade of selected fellow authors the previous year. In some 'versicles' from Venice parodying Boileau and savaging Murray's list which he sent to Moore, Hobhouse, and Murray in letters of 25 March 1817, Byron situates Knight's Ilderim between the heroic couplets of W. L. Bowles's The Missionary of the Andes: A Poem (1815) and Margaret Holford's metrical romance Margaret of Anjou (1816):
I read the 'Missionary' Pretty--very.-- I tried at 'Ilderim' Ahem! I read a sheet of 'Margaret of Anjou' Can--You? (47)
In some further verses sent only to 'Murray, the Mokanna of booksellers', Byron laments his publisher's abortive attempts 'To hook the reader' in a mischievous focus upon Holford's and Knight's poems as unsaleables, (48) with a reminder not to release these lines to the Morning Post for fear of getting 'into such a scrape':
For firstly I should have to sally All in my little boat against a Galley-- And should I chance to slay the Assyrian wight Have next to combat with the female knight. (49)
Byron is keen to add the 'Ass' to Knight's 'Syrian Tale', and the feminine rhymes of his first couplet effectively feminize both his adversaries who threaten to prick him to death with pen or needle.
On 11 April 1818 he sends two 'ballads' to Murray in which 'wishy-washy' Gally provides both the chief object of derision and the chiming burden. Byron introduces this ballad in the context of asking Murray to alter a line when Beppo was reprinted and then having second thoughts that he might have thus weakened it:
[A]nything is better than weakening an expression--or a thought.--I would rather be as bouncing as Nat Lee--than wishy-washy like--like-- He has twelve thousand pounds a year-- I do not mean to rally His songs at sixpence would be dear So give them gratis--Gally. And if this statement should seem queer Or set down in a hurry Go--ask (if he will be sincere) His Publisher--John Murray.-- Come say--how Many have been sold? And don't stand shilly-shally, Of bound & lettered, red & gold, Well printed works of Gally? (50)
This first stanza introduces a principal reason for Byron's gall; Gally Knight was extremely rich, having succeeded to substantial estates in Nottinghamshire, Yorkshire, and Lincolnshire on his father's death in 1808. His Nottinghamshire home, Langold Hall, was part of an estate of well over three thousand acres, including the manor of Warsop; furthermore it is not many miles from Newstead Abbey. And if Gally was very much in Byron's 'Alley', he was also in the House:
He hath a Seat in Parliament-- So fat, & passing wealthy--healthy.
Knight was wealthy, influential, and well respected: he was also, as we have seen, irritatingly well travelled. In the later version of this ballad Byron describes Gally's progress 'Through Araby the sandy'; his muse is barren as the landscape and riding on 'a Camel's hump' has rendered his rhymes 'of the costive kind'. (51)
The 11 April letter continues the anti-Gally tirade with a comparison of Knight and 'Botherby' as producers of effervescent spume: 'Between [Knight] & Sotheby there is the difference of the foam of a washing tub from the froth of a Syllabub'. Byron--it would seem--cannot leave the subject alone:
And you talk to me of sparing the Knight--because he probably is--but no matter--I was going to say a good customer but you are above that--however don't I spare him?--do I molest him? I laugh at him in my letters to you--& that is all-- (52)
And so off he goes again in this endless secret row with Knight; more a-'rowing of my Galley' so late into the night. This time Byron sings to another tune--that of 'Tally i.o. the Grinder'--in which the ultimate destination of Gally's ground-out verses descends from the uses of the Pastry Cook, to the taperlighting Maid, to lavatory paper for an enthroned Lord:
Amongst my researches for Ease I went where one's certain to find her-- The first thing by her throne that one sees Is Gally i. o. the Grinder.--(53)
His sojourn in Ravenna sees no abatement in the Baron's pillorying of the Knight; in February 1820 he is ridiculing the very idea of lengthy cantos:
I should have served you a pretty trick if I had sent you for example cantos of 50 stanzas each--like that Oriental Country Gentleman Mr Galley Knight with his Eastern Sketches, blessings on his pretty poesy. (54)
And in July, by which time he had read the Quarterly's review of Eastern Sketches (1819), he is infuriated by the implicit contrast made with his own poetry. The reviewer argues that Knight's 'song gives no indications of a spirit disturbed by moody passions, or scarred and scathed by painful recollections, which take their gloomy tinge rather from conscience than from misfortune'. (55) Byron's anger is soon diverted from the reviewer (Knight's friend Stratford Canning) to the author of the work at review:
[T]hey ['your Quartering Reviewers'] could nor even give a lift to that poor Creature, Gally Knight, without a similar insinuation about 'moody passions'. Now are not the passions the food and fuel of poesy? I greatly admire Milman; but they had better not bring me down upon Gally, for whom I have no such admiration.--- I suppose he buys two thousand pounds' worth of books in a year, which makes you so tender of him.--But he won't do--my Murray--he's middling--and writes like a Country Gentleman--for the County Newspaper. (56)
The end of August finds Byron suddenly in reflective introspective mode; how well his contemporaries have done--there's Peel, Palmerston, Hobhouse--but, before we know it, he's back in his Gally shackles, with a joke that is more than six years old:
[T]hen there is your Galley Knight--and all that--but I believe that (except Milman perhaps) I am still the youngest of the fifteen hundred first of living poets--as Wm Turdsworth is the oldest--Gally Knight is some Seasons my Senior--pretty Galley! so 'amiable'!!--you Goose, you--such fellows should be flung into Fleet Ditch--I'd rather be a Galley Slave than a Galley Knight--so utterly do I despise the middling mountebank's mediocrity in every thing but his Income. (57)
Why was Murray such a 'Goose' about Gally? In the extant letters, as we have seen, Byron harps on his being a good customer at Albemarle Street, but he never alludes to the fact that Gally Knight was one of a number of much 'younger' authors that Murray had published long before he met Lord Byron. Murray, with characteristic canniness, had taken upon himself the risk and expense of publishing The Miniature (1806), an Eton schoolboy periodical. The reason he did so was that the authors included Stratford Canning, Gally Knight, and the two sons of the Marquis Wellesley. Although Murray was landed with large amounts of waste paper, it was a sharp move, as Samuel Smiles appreciated:
By means of this transaction Murray had the sagacity to anticipate an opportunity of making friends of Canning and Frere, who were never tired of eulogizing the spirit and enterprise of the young Fleet Street publisher. Stratford Canning introduced him to his cousin George, the great minister, whose friendship and support had a very considerable influence in promoting and establishing his future prosperity. (58)
So while Byron was playing cricket for Harrow, Gally Knight and the jolly boaters of Eton had stolen a march by establishing a forerunner of the Quarterly. The relationship between Gally Knight and Murray had been strengthened by the fact that the publisher liked his Oriental
tales. On 13 December 1813, just over a week after Byron's letter expressing his enjoyment at reading Ilderim, Knight was writing to Murray as follows:
I have now nearly completed a brace of Poems, such as they are,&, as, in a former letter you seemed to wish to be their Editor [...] The subject of the first poem, is an Arabian story, attempting to give a faithful picture of the Arabs of the Desert--the second is a Grecian story, attempting to delineate the manners etc, of ye.Modern Greeks. (59)
Their close relationship may be traced via their letters through a long publishing partnership, in which Murray seemed to adopt a fostering role. (60) At the end of the day, Henry Gally Knight was not only rich but talented and extremely well connected. To an exiled Byron he was more than an inferior poetic rival, whose publications were irritatingly advertised on the endpapers of Byron's poems; this 'Country Gentleman' came to symbolize everything that might be resented. If the Baron's campaign against the reputation of Knight lacked honour, it equally lacked substance, conducted as it was behind the back of his college friend, in almost paranoid attempts at poisoning the mind of their mutual publisher.
Meanwhile the object of this lengthy smear-campaign, transmitted almost exclusively to the judiciously silent Murray, went about his life--in the House (where he was active as a reformer) and in his clubs (Grillion's in Albemarle Street, of which he was a founder member, and Brookes); earning an increasingly important reputation as an architectural writer and antiquary; managing his extensive estates; visiting with his wife a wide circle of friends who valued their company--completely unaware of Byron's hypocritical animus. It was not until seven years after Byron's death, on his reading in 1831 the second volume of Moore's Letters and Journals of Lord Byron, that Knight began to appreciate the truth. His letter to Murray of 17 February 1831 reveals to us both his surprise and the, perhaps, unsurprising reason why he had been singled out:
I have seen the second volume of Moore's 'Life of Byron,' and though it can be matter of surprise to no one to find himself the object of the spleen of the noble author, yet I confess I am surprised at seeing myself so gratuitously offered up as a victim to the public--especially as Lord Byron's opinions on the subject of my little poems in the second volume are the exact converse of what they were in the first (61)--thereby demonstrating that whoever remained, ever so quietly and unaffectedly, the friend of Lady Byron, could not escape the malignity of her lord. What makes the pickings at my little poem in the second volume the more remarkable is that 'Ilderim' had been submitted to Lord Byron at his own request some time before it was published, and that he strongly exhorted me to let it appear. I have still in my possession a letter of Lord Byron's in which he desires me to put the work into your hands. Au reste, the second volume appears to me to be neither more nor less than Don Juan in prose, and I cannot say how much I regret to see Lord Byron's amours so openly paraded before the public. It is an indecorous exhibition, and but too likely to do harm, for young men will admire the whole of the life, because it belonged to genius; and will imitate the only part of it with which mental superiority had nothing to do. (62)
In the restraint of this response one cannot help but appreciate a deep sense of dignity about a man who has served as a species of whipping-boy for Byron. Although they never battled over the honour of Kyra Phrosine, Byron's underhand tilting at the reputation of Gally Knight underscores the fact that even the quiet and unaffected friends of Lady Byron became what her erstwhile lord regarded as legitimate targets. (63)
What encouraged Byronic spleen was the simple fact that Henry's mother, Selina Gally Knight, was a close friend of Judith Noel, Lady Milbanke (1751-1822), Byron's forceful and much-loathed mother-in-law. We now begin to appreciate the non-literary force of Byron's animus against his fellow poet and Oriental traveller. The Knights (mother and son) and the Milbankes moved in the same circles; Henry and Annabella (the 'Princess of Parallelograms' of my title) (64) had known each other all their lives. And as early as the spring of 1812 Annabella's apparently accurate characterization of Byron relies both upon personal observation (at Lady Caroline Lamb's) and Gally Knight's anecdotes concerning the 'infidel' lord's 'feelings dreadfully perverted'; she writes:
He quarrelled with all his family, and that was the cause of his foreign travels. Young Knight is acquainted with him, and was very much shocked by hearing him say 'Thank Heaven! I have quarrelled with my mother for ever'. (65)
So Byron was shocking Knight in 1812, but we know he was dining with him, together with Kinnaird, Burdett, and Hobhouse, in August 1815, when they 'all grumbled at life'. (66) The aftermath of the separation in which the very dust of Sir Samuel Romilly was loathed changed everything. (67)
In self-imposed exile at Pisa in 1822, Byron might well have been unaware of a book published in London which influenced Delacroix's depictions of Greek and Turkish subjects: Selections of the Costume of Albania and Greece, with Explanatory Quotations from the Poems of Lord Byron and Gally Knight. Including a highly finished Portrait of Ali Pacha, the whole from original drawings by J. Cartwright, esq. (London: Havell, 1822). Had he noticed its appearance, it is to be suspected that Byron would have been much more pleased to be placed in the company of 'the Mahometan Buonaparte' than for his poems to be mentioned in the same breath as those of Gally Knight. It is interesting nevertheless to see that both poets were being viewed in the early 1820s as models of 'costume and correctness' within influential publications.
Byron's preparations for embarking from Genoa to Greece involved costume in so far as he superintended the design of scarlet and gold uniforms and plumed Homeric helmets, but his commitment went far beyond toy soldiery. This was not poetic jousting for the honour of Greece. Byron was prepared to fight and die for this reawakening nation; no longer a beautiful corpse like Leila or Phrosine: 'Greece--she is awake!' Some deeply devoted verses of Goethe caught up with him in July 1823 at Livorno, which Byron, with all the self-knowledge of the poet-hero, took as a most 'favourable omen':
By his loved Muses all his sorrows banish'd, And he self-known,--e'en as to me he's known! (68)
By the time that prestigious member of the London Greek Committee, Henry Gally Knight, on an architectural tour of Germany, met Goethe at Weimar in 1824, Byron was dead, and 'middling' Gally, caught between two poetic idols who idolized each other, could only marvel at those 'dark intelligent eyes that still flash fire' when the old man spoke of Greece, of Byron, and the canon of genius:
His worship of Byron is even beyond the mark--He places him next to Shakespeare. (69)
(1) The Sixth Epistle of the First Book of Horace Imitated (London: Gilliver, 1738). Cf. Byron's subsequent citing of Horace in Don Juan, v. 101, in Byron: Complete Poetical Works, ed. by Jerome J. McGann, 7 vols (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1981), v. 273; henceforth CPW.
(2) Byron's Letters and Journals, ed. by Leslie A.Marchand, 13 vols (London:Murray, 1973-94), vi, 3; henceforth BLJ.
(3) From Cairo in 1811 Knight had sent to his friend Stratford Canning(George Canning's cousin, 'a youthful but senior diplomat in Constantinople') a first-hand account of Mehemet Ali Pasha's massacre of the Mamelukes; see Deborah Manley and Peta Ree, Henry Salt: Artist, Traveller, Diplomat, Egyptologist (London: Libri, 2001), pp. 77-78.
(4) Letter to Murray of 4 December 1813, BLJ, III, 191-92. The expression 'to charm & fix a mind's attention' demonstrates how Pope and Horace frequently run in Byron's mind; cf. 'To charm the Mistress, or to fix the Friend', Horace his Ode to Venus. Lib. IV. Ode I. Imitated by Mr. Pope (London: J. Wright, 1737), p. 5.
(5) Famously, he also asserts: 'Stick to the East;--the oracle, Sta*el, toldme it was the only poetical policy' (letter to Moore of 28 August 1813, BLJ, III, 101).
(6) BLJ, III, 191 n. See below, p. 343.
(7) The Advertisement to Ilderim: A Syrian Tale (London: Murray, 1816) states: 'The following Poem forms part of a Work, the plan of which was first conceived, and partly executed, in the Countries which it attempts to describe; during the course of a journey, which was performed in the years 1810-11.' The Advertisement to Phrosyne: A Grecian Tale. Alashtar: An Arabian Tale (London: Murray, 1817) states: 'The following Poems complete the series, of which ilderim formed a part. [...] Phrosyne was written in 1811--ALASHTAR, in 1813.--Accidental circumstances have, till now, delayed the publication' (p. III).
(8) Moore adds in a note: 'Poems by Mr. Gally Knight, of which Mr. Murray had transmitted the MS. to Lord Byron, without, however, communicating the name of the author' (The Works of Lord Byron: With his Letters and Journals, and his Life, 17 vols (London: Murray, 1837), II, 313).
(9) Review of a Philadelphia-printed pirated edition of Ilderim: A Syrian Tale, in Analectic Magazine, 8 (September 1816), 267-69 (p. 267). Cf. the response of a Baltimore reviewer: '[T]he poet has had the art to manage his scenes in such a way, as to awaken the interest of the reader, and make him regret that it ends so abruptly' (The Portico, 2 (November 1816), 341).
(10) Review of Phrosyne: A Grecian Tale. Alashtar: An Arabian Tale, in Monthly Review, n.s. 83 (August 1817), 370-81 (p. 371).
(11) See the four letters to Murray of 3 and 3-4 December 1813, BLJ, III, 190-91. The summer had seen a merciless review of The Giaour in The Satirist (1 July 1813), 731-37, and a rather mixed one from Francis Jeffrey in the Edinburgh Review, 21 (July 1813), 299-309.
(12) British Lady's Magazine, 4 (October 1816), 314.
(13) Augustan Review, 3 (October 1816), 397-98. See John Brown, Barbarossa: A Tragedy (London: Tonson, 1755). The play was regularly reprinted for at least a century. On the likelihood of Byron having seen this play (with 'the young Roscius' William Betty in the role of Selim) in early December 1804, and on his sensitivity to its plot, see Paul Elledge, Lord Byron at Harrow School (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000), pp. 107-10.
(14) BLJ, III, 213.
(15) See Biographical Curiosities; or, Various Pictures of Human Nature (London:Ridgeway, 1797), p. 116.
(16) Gulnare's mixture of 'fanatical' devotion and sexual desire for the handsome Western prisoner seems little different from the behaviour of Floripas in killing her nurse and braining the jailer in order to liberate Roland and Oliver in the medieval Charlemagne romance The Sowdone of Babylone.
(17) Byron's scarlet regimentalsmight have clashedwithKnight's blue uniformwhen theymet in Cadiz: 'Saw Gally Knight, in blue regimentals of yeomanry, and youngWellesley Pole' ('Diary of John Cam Hobhouse', Tuesday, 1 August 1809, edited from BL Add.MSS 56527 and 56529 by Peter Cochran, http://www.hobby-o.com/athens.php [accessed 30 October 2007]). Here Knight had written Iberia's Crisis: A Fragment of an Epic Poem(London:W.Miller, 1809). The following summer philhellenesabounded in Athens: 'I was greeted bymy Ld Sligo, and the next day Messrs North, Knight, and Fazakerly paid me formal visits' (Byron to Hobhouse, 29 July 1810, BLJ, II, 5).
(18) Byron, Letters and Journals, ed. by Rowland E. Prothero, 6 vols (London: Murray, 1898-1901), III, 58-59.
(19) By the third week of March Byron was circulating pre-publication copies to his friends (see BLJ, III, 28-29) and the first edition was published on 5 June 1813.
(20) Unlikely as it might seem, this gamey image might well have been suggested by the Romaic folk ballad of Kyra Phrosine, in which its heroine is twice referred to as [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.], or 'my partridge'; see [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.], ed. by N.G. Polites, 7th edn (Athens: E. G. Bagionaki, 1978), pp. 16-17.
(21) Knight's references to reluctance to 'enter the lists' and 'break a lance' are conventional enough, but it is just possible that the latter expression's appearance in Giaffir's scornful words in The Bride of Abydos was suggested by Knight's letter: 'But if thy beard had manlier length, And if thy hand had skill and strength, I'd joy to see thee break a lance, Albeit against my own perchance' (i. 5, ll. 122-25). Certainly, as their literary rivalry develops, Byron can be seen to play Giaffir to Knight's Selim.
(22) Byron continues to affirm that--unlike Pope's description of Addison ('Turk-like, can bear no brother near the throne')--he wishes to see Moore in print before Knight: 'The best way to make the public "forget" me is to remind them of yourself. You cannot suppose that I would ask or advise you to publish, if I thought you would fail. I really have no literary envy; and I do not believe a friend's success ever sat nearer another than yours do to my best wishes. It is for elderly gentlemen to "bear no brother near," and cannot become our disease for more years than we may perhaps number. I wish you to be out before Eastern subjects are again before the public' (BLJ, iv, 80).
(23) BLJ, i, 228.
(24) See Katherine Fleming, The Muslim Bonaparte: Diplomacy and Orientalism in Ali Pasha's Greece (Princeton: PrincetonUniversity Press, 1999), p. 167.
(25) Richard Monckton Milnes's more pro-Muslim line emphasized the Romantic elements, citing in translation some lines of the 'pathetic song' of Muktar: 'It begins with great dramatic power:--"On the 15th of August Phrosine goes forth to walk by the water-side, by the lake, in the fresh wind. Oh, Phrosine! you did not do well to bid me send a cloak and a servant to carry it!" &c. &c. It was this cloak or capote which belonged to Mouktar's mother, and discovered to Ali his son's passion' (Memorials of a Tour in some Parts of Greece (London:Moxon, 1834), p. 68).
(26) See his A Journey through Albania and Other Provinces of Turkey, 2 vols (London: Cawthorn, 1813), i, 111-12; and his entry for Saturday, 6 January 1810 in 'The Diary of John Cam Hobhouse'. Hobhouse's unfortunate comment that 'The inhabitants of Ioannina remark that the fish of their lake are neither wholesome nor pleasant to the taste' is, of course, taken up by Byron in a stanza on 'The sack and sea': 'No scandals made the daily press a curse-- Morals were better, and the fish no worse' (Don Juan, v, 149, CPW, v, 288.) On this mode of execution, cf. Don Juan, v. 92, CPW, v, 270; and The Corsair, III. 341, CPW, III, 201.
(27) William Martin Leake, Travels in Northern Greece, 4 vols (London:Rodwell, 1835), i, 402-03.
(28) BLJ, ii, 102; I, 228. Byron had thought of writing a tale based on the stoning of a pregnant sixteen-year-old Turkish girl according to an edict of the 'sanguinary Rajah' of Yannina forbidding 'incontinence with a Christian', but he found it 'too terrible for any pen'. Byron continues to celebrate his own involvement in both the seduction and salvation of another Turkish girl, who inspired the tale of the less fortunate Leila; see Thomas Medwin, Conversations of Lord Byron (London: Colburn, 1824), pp. 96-100.
(29) Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, ii. 62, l. 558. The impressionable Byron does not seem averse to censorship; in the letter to his mother of 12 November 1809 he deletes some lines which, according to Marchand: 'seem to be an account of a page of Ali Pacha or his son, "who loved an Albanian girl" and there seems to have been a struggle to save her honour from Ali Pasha's son' (BLJ, i, 229, n. 6).
(30) Travels in Northern Greece, i, 402; 271-81.
(31) Henry Gally Knight, Eastern Sketches in Verse, 3rd edn (London: Murray, 1830), p. xxvIII. Leake similarly observed in Kalarytes 'the ancient spirit of independence for which the Greeks were so remarkable' (Travels in Northern Greece, I, 276-77). The poem is cited from the first edition of 1817.
(32) Phrosyne's bosom friend, unsurprisingly, is called Helen.
(33) This detail stresses the likelihood that Knight had heard the traditional ballad of Kyra Phrosine, the fifth line of which in translation reads: 'None other dared don the Cashmire shawl' ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.], p. 16).
(34) In Byron's 1809 letter to his mother he records that Ali Pasha 'told me to consider him as a father whilst I was in Turkey,& said he looked on me as his son [...] To me he was indeed a father' (BLJ, i, 227-28). Cf. Percy Shelley's more clear-eyed description of Ali Pasha as: 'A crownless metaphor of empire' (Hellas: A Lyrical Drama, l. 567).
(35) Cf. Byron, who states that Ali's crimes 'have marked him with a tiger's tooth; Blood follows blood' (Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, ii. 63, ll. 565-66). The Pasha's surname was actually Aslan; see Alphonse de Beauchamp, The Life of Ali Pacha, of Jannina: Late Vizier of Epirus, Surnamed Aslan, or the Lion (London: Relfe, 1822).
(36) Euphrosyne was one of the Three Graces and associated with Mirth.
(37) Earlier, when Anastasius had attempted to surprise her among her female friends in the countryside, the fences had been of fabric: 'It may be supposed that through all Euphrosyne's jealous fences of silk, and wool, and cotton rendered doubly impenetrable by every addition of fringe and trimmings, and tassels not one single feature of her face had been revealed to my searching eye' (Thomas Hope, Anastasius; or, Memoirs of a Modern Greek, 3 vols (London: Murray, 1819), III, 47, 44). Hope spent eight years in Mediterranean countries, including Turkey, where 'he adopted local dress and abandoned his Christianity'. Like Knight, he studied classical and Islamic architecture; see Oxford DNB, s.n..
(38) William Martin Leake, Researches in Greece (London: Booth, 1814), p. 410; id., Travels in Northern Greece, i, 401. Many thanks to Fritz-Gregor Herrmann for this clarification.
(39) This constitutes a triumph of 'strong philhellenism' (to borrow Nigel Leask's term) in its lauding of modern Greeks; see Leask, 'Byron and the Eastern Mediterranean: Childe Harold ii and the "polemic of Ottoman Greece"', in The Cambridge Companion to Byron, ed. by Drummond Bone (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), pp. 99-117 (p. 104).
(40) This narrative must have served a similar propagandizing function as that of the Suliote women who hurled themselves with their babes in arms from the Zalongo cliffs rather than face enslavement by Ali Pasha; see Leake, Travels in Northern Greece, I, 246; cf. Felicia Hemans, 'The Suliote Mother', in The Forest Sanctuary, and Other Poems (London: Murray, 1825), pp. 181-83. On the continuation of the ancient tradition of suicide to avoid violation, and for the following translation of a stanza from a well-known Greek song--'Better that I should see my blood With crimson stain the ground, Than that I e'er should see my eyes Kissed by a Turkish hound'--see Robert Pashley, Travels in Crete, 2 vols (London: Murray, 1837), II, 230, 243-44; C. Fauriel, Chants populaires de la Grece moderne, 2 vols (Paris: Dondey-Dupre, 1824-25), I, 136.
(41) BLJ, xi, 183-84; despite the kind help of Katherine Fleming and Alexis Politis, I have failed to identify this poet.
(42) Whereas Byron generally laments the lack of such resemblance, the women in Knight's Phrosyne underscore a notion of continuity. Moore thought the seed of Byron's conception of a lifeless Greece had been gleaned from John Gillies, The History of Ancient Greece (1786): 'The present state of Greece, compared to what it was, is the silent obscurity of the grave, contrasted with the vivid lustre of active life' (Works of Lord Byron, ii, 193).
(43) The twenty-one-year-old MP and eligible suitor Frederick Douglas, only son and heir of Lord Glenbervie, was introduced to Annabella Milbanke at Miss Berry's on 15 March 1813. 'Annabella found "he has the best parts of a foreign manner, & converses very agreeably"' (Malcolm Elwin, Lord Byron's Wife (London: Murray, 1962), p. 159).
(44) Letter of Byron to Knight, 4 April 1815, BLJ, xi, 188-89. In preferring Alashtar, Byron anticipates the Monthly's critic by two years: 'In the first place, we approve Mr. Knight's choice of the stanza of Spenser; because we think that the artificial construction of this measure, when successfully attained, conveys of itself a species of pleasure to the ear of the critical reader; and we are also of the opinion that it serves to give force and effect to descriptions and to sentiments which would appear insipid in the simpler vehicle of the heroic couplet. No greater proof can be adduced of the truth of this last observation, than the manifest inferiority of this same writer when, in the succeeding tale of Phrosyne, he attempts the narrative-manner of Dryden, and risques the plain decasyllabic verse with a rhyme at the end of it' (Monthly Review, n.s. 83 (August 1817), 374).
(45) Letter to Murray of 4 September 1817, BLJ, v, 262-63.
(46) Beppo, st. 51, CPW, iv, 145. Knight had written a Grecian, a Syrian, and an Arabian tale.
(47) To Murray, BLJ, v, 193-94; cf. letter to Hobhouse, v, 199. In the letter to Moore, also of 25 March 1817, Marchand has: 'I tired at "Ilderim"' (BLJ, v, 187). The following month, Byron is carping at Murray's taste: 'I like your delicacy--you who print Margaret--& Ilderim and then Demur at Corinne' (letter to Murray of 2 April 1817, BLJ, v, 205).
(48) Yet only two weeks earlier Byron hadwritten: 'You say that "Margaret of Anjou"& "Ilderim" do not keep pace with your other saleables--I should have thought the Assyrian Tale very succeedable' (letter to Murray of 9 March 1817, BLJ, v, 185).
(49) BLJ, v, 194.
(50) BLJ, vi, 27. This was the first draft of 'Ballad to the Tune of "Sally in Our Alley"', whose second verse opens: 'He writes as well as any Miss' (CPW, iv, 168-70).
(51) Ibid. Byron had 'had the hump' with Gally Knight for some time. The previous year he had told Murray that Moore's Lalla Rookh 'will knock up "Ilderim" & shew young Gentlemen that something more than having been across a Camel's hump is necessary to write a good Oriental tale' (letter toMurray of 9 July 1817, BLJ, v, 249).
(52) In attempting to negotiate 2500 guineas for Childe Harold iv, Byron instructsMurray: 'You shall submit theMS. toMr.Gifford and any other two gentlemen to be named by you, (Mr. Frere, orMr. Croker, or whomever you please, except such fellows as your GalleyKnights or Sothebys)' (BLJ, v, 262).
(53) BLJ, vi, 28-29. This poem also was subsequently extended into 'Another Simple Ballat'; see CPW, iv, 170-72.
(54) Letter to Murray of 7 February 1820, BLJ, vii, 35.
(55) Quarterly Review, 22 (July 1819), 149-58 (p. 150).
(56) Letter to Murray of 17 July 1820, BLJ, vii, 131-33 (p. 132). In yet another poem, a verse letter to Murray appended to a prose letter of 28 September 1820, Byron drubs the publisher's 'Squadron' as 'ragamuffins'. Placed between Sotheby and 'your feminine He-Man' (Felicia Hemans), Knight is given this couplet: 'Some Syrian Sally From common-place Gally' (BLJ, vii, 183).
(57) Letter to Murray of 31 August 1820, BLJ, vii, 168-69. This was in response to Murray's defence of Knight as 'one of the most amiable of men'; see his letter to Byron of 12 August 1820, in Letters of John Murray to Lord Byron, ed. by Andrew Nicholson (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2007), p. 328. Byron's abuse of Knight to Murray becomes almost a nervous tic. When making a political witticism, he adds: 'Galley Knight's a fool--and would not understand this' (letter to Murray of 23 September 1820, BLJ, vii, 180). Cf. the college recollections of 19 November 1820, BLJ, vii, 230-32.
(58) Samuel Smiles, A Publisher and his Friends: Memoir and Correspondence of John Murray, 2 vols (London: Murray, 1891), I, 67-69. Some of the content of this Eton periodical is quite entertaining; the 'Receipt for a Modern Romance' in the very first number might as well have been written by a young Henry Tilney as a young Henry Gally Knight; see The Miniature, by Solomon Grildrig [T. Rennell, H. G. Knight, S. Canning, and others] (London: J. Murray and J. Harding, 1806), 1 (23 April 1804), 13-22.
(59) He continues: 'It is my intention, if, contrary to my present expectations, the present work should succeed, to furnish you with two or three more of the same sort of Poems, written with the same view of delineating existing manners,& of which the scenes would each be laid in a different country--This plan was formed, & the second of the poems now offered, nearly finish'd in the countries themselves.' A brief postscript enquires: 'Do you happen to know Ld. Byron's present address?' (letter from Gally Knight to Murray of 13 December 1813, Murray Archive, National Library of Scotland, currently being classified). I must thank David McClay for his kind help.
(60) As well as his Europa rediviva (1814), Poems on Various Subjects (1815), which saw a fourth edition in 1837, and a verse play, Hannibal in Bithynia (1839), Murray published several of the architectural works which made his reputation, including An Architectural Tour in Normandy (1836), The Normans in Sicily (1838), and Saracenic and Norman Remains (1840).
(61) This provides further and conclusive evidence that it was Ilderim which Byron had been reading so late into the night.
(62) Knight toMurray, 17 February 1831, in Smiles, A Publisher and his Friends, ii, 323.
(63) 'I expect neither comfort, nor honour, nor fair dealing from Lady Byron nor any of her Agents' (Byron to John Hanson, 20 June 1822, BLJ, ix, 177). It would seem that--despite his claims at the end of 'Lines on Hearing that Lady Byron was Ill', 'I would not do by thee as thou hast done!'--Byron's treatment of Knight was in a similar vein.
(64) Stratford Canning, another unsuccessful suitor of Annabella, had christened her 'Princess Nonparelia'.
(65) Annabella's Journal, 25 March 1812, cited in Elwin, Lord Byron's Wife, p. 106. Knight was very close to his mother; his memorial in Warsop Church hardly reads Byronically: 'The dutiful son of a widow'd mother; a Poet as witnessed by her "Portrait"; over sacred and classical ground a Traveller, a man of kindness, and Benefactor to his Church and kinsmen.' Knight's devoted verse tribute to his mother, 'The Portrait', was published in the year of her death in A Collection of Poems, ed. by Joanna Baillie (London: Longman, 1823), pp. 200-06; and in the third edition of his own Eastern Sketches, in Verse (London: Murray, 1830), pp. 169-77. Its 'excellence' ('We have seldom met with better lines than those of Mr Galley Knight') was extolled in the Monthly Review, 103 (1824), 416.
(66) Lord Broughton, Recollections of a Long Life, 2 vols (London: Murray, 1910), i, 323.
(67) Romilly, who had accepted a lawyer's retainer from Byron but defected to Annabella's side, committed suicide three days after his wife's death. 'I still loathe him--as much as we can hate dust' (letter to Murray of 7 June 1819, BLJ, VI, 150). In response to Murray's request for mercy for this departed knight (cf. p. 345 above), he writes: 'You ask me to spare "Romilly"--ask the Worms' (letter to Murray of 29 June 1819, BLJ, VI, 167).
(68) This is Medwin's translation of the final two lines; see Medwin, Conversations of Lord Byron,
(69) Letter of Knight to William Sotheby (Byron's 'Botherby'; see above, p. 345) of 26 December 1824, in the Henry E. Huntington Library, quoted in Marcia Allentuck, 'Byron and Goethe: New Unpublished References by Henry Gally Knight', Philological Quarterly, 52 (October 1973), 777-79 (p. 778).
MICHAEL J. FRANKLIN
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|Author:||Franklin, Michael J.|
|Publication:||The Modern Language Review|
|Article Type:||Critical essay|
|Date:||Apr 1, 2008|
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