|Sated with luxury and riotous living, Lord Byron yearns |
for the desolate open reaches of the Lido
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The ground floor of the Mocenigo housed Byron’s menagerie. The stygian realm echoed with the growls of Mutz, his much loved mastiff, and the barks, howls, shrieks and chattering of a growing collection of dogs, birds and monkeys. They capered, snarled and twittered in the gloom, their rattling cages arranged alongside Byron’s rusting carriages with their once splendid but now peeling armorials. It was small wonder that the inner misanthrope in Byron – he was never a gregarious character – craved solitude. The quiet shore of the Lido seemed to offer a perfect retreat from the rigours of Venice. He therefore rented a disused fortification near Alberoni and transformed it into a makeshift stable: "Talking of horses, by the way, I have transported my own, four in number, to the Lido (beach in English), a strip of some ten miles along the Adriatic, a mile or two from the city; so that I not only get a row in my gondola, but a spanking gallop of some miles daily along a firm and solitary beach, from the fortress to Malamocco, the which contributes considerably to my health and spirits.” He spent agreeable mornings riding out alone or in the company of either John Cam Hobhouse or the English Consul, Belgrave Hoppner. Hobhouse records occasional meetings with other visitors on the otherwise desolate beach. A German banker and his companion tell them of Princess Charlotte’s death which Byron finds unsettling and talks about for the rest of the day. They are accosted on the beach by a Contessa Tiretta, the Venetian courtesan who had for a while entangled herself with Byron’s naïve and lovestruck valet, Fletcher. When the Contessa, described by Hobhouse as a ‘terra firma countess’, i.e. a whore, threatened suicide or, worse, a visit to England, Byron sent her packing with characteristic contempt.