George Gordon, Lord Byron
  (1788 - 1824)

The Grand Tour: Falmouth to Lisbon (July 1809)

From Falmouth to Lisbon : Sunday 2nd July to Friday 7th July

Falmouth packet
The Falmouth packet

The crossing, although fast, was anything but pleasant, though Byron himself appears to have been in good spirits at the start of his adventure. He writes to his friend Francis Hodgson, with whom he had struck up a friendship at Cambridge, from Falmouth on 25th June 1809:

The town of Falmouth, as you will partly conjecture, is no great ways from the sea. It is defended on the sea-side by tway castles, St Maws and Pendennis, extremely well calculated for annoying every body except an enemy. St Maws is garrisoned by an able-bodied person of fourscore, a widower. He has the whole command and sole management of six most unmanageable peices of ordnance, admirably adapted for the destrution of Pendennis, a like tower of strength on the opposite side of the Channel. (TMBL, p90)


I leave England without regret - I shall return to it without pleasure. I am like Adam, the first convict sentenced to transportation, but I have no Eve, and have eated no apple but what was sour as a crab: - And thus ends my first chapter. Adieu

There were probably several reasons for Byron's choosing to leave the country for Turkey at this point in time. There was certainly the desire to make a 'Grand Tour' of the continent. Turkey as a destination was in part dictated by Napoleon's closure of the continent to English visitors. Added to this, he was being increasingly pressed by his creditors, and his dangerous relationship with John Edlestone threatened to put him in severe legal difficulties if the true nature of that relationship were to come to light. When finance became available in the form of a loan from Scrope Davies from his winnings at the gaming tables, he made the decision, and agreed to finance John Cam Hobhouse as his travelling companion.

Falmouth Harbour, painted in c1812 by JMW Turner
reproduced by the engraver W.Cooke

The following poem was included with the same letter to Hodgson:

Dated Falmouth Roads, June 30, 1809

Huzza! Hodgson, we are going
Our embargo's off at last;
Favourable breezes blowing
Bend the canvas o'er the mast.
From aloft the signal's streaming,
Hark! the farewell gun is fired,
Women screeching, tars blaspheming,
Tell us that our time's expired.
Here's a rascal
Come to task all,
Prying from the Custom-house;
Trunks unpacking,
Cases cracking,
Not a corner for a mouse
'Scapes unsearch'd amid the racket,
Ere we sail on board the packet.

Now our boatmen quit their mooring,
And all hands must ply the oar;
Baggage from the quay is lowering,
We're impatient - push from shore.
'Have a care! that case holds liquor -
Stop the boat - I'm sick - oh Lord!'
'Sick, ma'am, damme, you'll be sicker
Ere you've been an hour on board.'
Thus are screaming
Men and women,
Gemmen, ladies, servants, Jacks;
Here entangling
All are wrangling,
Stuck together close as wax. -
Such the general noise and racket,
Ere we reach the Lisbon packet.

Now we've reach'd her, lo! the captain,
Gallant Kidd, commands the crew;
Passengers their berths are clapt in,
Some to grumble, some to spew.
'Hey day! call you that a cabin?
Why 'tis hardly three feet square;
Not enough to stow
Queen Mab in -
Who the deuce can harbour there?'
'Who sir? Plenty -
Nobles twenty
Did at once my vessel fill' -
'Did they? Jesus,
How you squeeze us!
Would to God they did so still;
Then I'd 'scape the heat and racket
Of the good ship, Lisbon packet.

'Fletcher, Murray, Bob! where are you?
Stretch'd along the deck like logs -
Bear a hand you jolly tar you!
Here's a rope's end for the dogs.
Hobhouse muttering fearful curses,
As the hatchway down he rolls;
Now his breakfast, now his verses,
Vomits forth - and damns our souls.
'Here's a stanza
On Braganza -
Help!' - 'A couplet?' - 'No a cup
Of warm water.' -
'What's the matter?'
'Zounds! my liver's coming up;
I shall not survive the racket
Of this brutal Lisbon packet.'

Now at length we're off for Turkey,
Lord knows when we shall come back!
Breezes foul and tempests murky
May unship us in a crack.
But, since life at most a jest is,
As philosophers allow,
Still to laugh by far the best is,
Then laugh on - as I do now.
Laugh at all things,
Great and small things,
Sick or well, at sea or shore;
While we're quaffing,
Let's have laughing -
Who the devil cares for more? -
Some good wine! and who would lack it,
Ev'n on board the Lisbon Packet.
(quoted in TMLB p90-1)

The voyage: overview

Voyage through Portugal

BECP Byron, Eisler, Benita, Child of Passion, Fool of Fame, first published Hamish Hamilton, 1999

FGLA Gribble, Francis Henry, The Love Affairs of Lord Byron, London, 1910

RGR Gronow, Rees Howell, Reminiscences of Captain Gronow, London, 1862

LCGL Crompton, Louis, Byron and Greek Love, University of California Press, 1985

MBLW Boyes, Megan, Love Without Wings, Derby, 1988

TMLJ Moore, Thomas, Letters and Journals of Lord Byron, first published J.Murray, London, 1832

RPLJ1 Protheroe, Rowland, The Works of Lord Byron, Letter and Journals Vol 1, Free Plain Vanilla Electronic Texts, September 2005 

The poet biographies, criticism, translations, maps and textual notes on this site are the copyright of Paul Scott