Published online by Cambridge University Press: 04 October 2019
Byron wrote numerous notes and letters in Italian to Teresa Guiccioli, yet, unlike his friend Percy Bysshe Shelley, he did not translate his own poetry into Italian, nor did he produce any independent work in Italian. At first sight, this may seem surprising, not least because of Byron’s intense interest in the Italian language and specifically Venetian, which, by his own account, he spoke with ease and vivacity (and, according to others, as if he were talking with a brogue or a Somersetshire accent). He was amusingly critical of those who lacked his linguistic competence, such as John Murray (his publisher), Henry Brougham (the lawyer) and William Sotheby (the translator). His correspondence from Italy is rich in Italian usages, some of which he did not bother to explain. His poetic ambitions were even more closely connected with the language. On April 6, 1819, he informed Murray: “I mean to write my best work in Italian – & it will take me nine years more thoroughly to master the language – & then if my fancy exists & I exist too – I will try what I can do really” (BLJ 6: 105). Unfortunately, Byron did not exist nine years later, but his commitment to an extended discipline is hard to ignore. For a variety of reasons, he sent his young daughter by Claire Clairmont to a convent, where, as Shelley’s report of his own visit indicates, she conversed in Italian. Over two years later, Byron instructed Lady Byron that their daughter Ada should learn Italian and proceeded to an extraordinary imagining: “[P]erhaps by the time that she and I may meet (if ever we meet) it will be nearly necessary to converse with me – for I write English now with more facility than I speak it – from hearing it but seldom.” He continued: “It is the reverse with my Italian which I can speak fluently – but write incorrectly – having never studied it & only acquired it by ear” (BLJ 8: 210).
To save this book to your Kindle, first ensure email@example.com is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.
Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.
Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.
To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.
To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.