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The Life of Lord Byron By John Galt Characters: 5725

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05


The funeral Preparations and final Obsequies

The death of Lord Byron was felt by all Greece as a national misfortune. From the moment it was known that fears were entertained for his life, the progress of the disease was watched with the deepest anxiety and sorrow. On Easter Sunday, the day on which he expired, thousands of the inhabitants of Missolonghi had assembled on the spacious plain on the outside of the city, according to an ancient custom, to exchange the salutations of the morning; but on this occasion it was remarked, that instead of the wonted congratulations, "Christ is risen," they inquired first, "How is Lord Byron?"

On the event being made known, the Provisional Government assembled, and a proclamation, of which the following is a translation, was issued

"Provisional Government of Western Greece.

"The day of festivity and rejoicing is turned into one of sorrow and morning.

"The Lord Noel Byron departed this life at eleven {354} o'clock last night, after an illness of ten days. His death was caused by an inflammatory fever. Such was the effect of his Lordship's illness on the public mind, that all classes had forgotten their usual recreations of Easter, even before the afflicting event was apprehended.

"The loss of this illustrious individual is undoubtedly to be deplored by all Greece; but it must be more especially a subject of lamentation at Missolonghi, where his generosity has been so conspicuously displayed, and of which he had become a citizen, with the ulterior determination of participating in all the dangers of the war.

"Everybody is acquainted with the beneficent acts of his Lordship, and none can cease to hail his name as that of a real benefactor.

"Until, therefore, the final determination of the national Government be known, and by virtue of the powers with which it has been pleased to invest me, I hereby decree:

"1st. To-morrow morning, at daylight, thirty-seven minute-guns shall be fired from the grand battery, being the number which corresponds with the age of the illustrious deceased.

"2nd. All the public offices, even to the tribunals, are to remain closed for three successive days.

"3rd. All the shops, except those in which provisions or medicines are sold, will also be shut; and it is strictly enjoined that every species of public amusement and other demonstrations of festivity at Easter may be suspended.

"4th. A general mourning will be observed for twenty-one days.

"5th. Prayers and a funeral service are to be offered up in all the churches.

"A. MAVROCORDATOS.

"GEORGIS PRAIDIS, Secretary.

"Given at Missolonghi, this 19th of April, 1824."

The funeral oration was written and delivered on the occasion, by Spiridion Tricoupi, and ordered by the government to be published. No token of respect that reverence could suggest, or cus

tom and religion sanction, was omitted by the public authorities, nor by the people.

Lord Byron having omitted to give directions for the disposal of his body, some difficulty arose about fixing the place of interment. But after being embalmed it was sent, on the 2nd of May, to Zante, where it was met by Lord Sidney Osborne, a relation of Lord Byron, by marriage-the secretary of the senate at Corfu.

It was the wish of Lord Sidney Osborne, and others, that the interment should be in Zante; but the English opposed the proposition in the most decided manner. It was then suggested that it should be conveyed to Athens, and deposited in the temple of Theseus, or in the Parthenon-Ulysses Odysseus, the Governor of Athens, having sent an express to Missolonghi, to solicit the remains for that city; but, before it arrived, they were already in Zante, and a vessel engaged to carry them to London, in the expectation that they would be deposited in Westminster Abbey or St Paul's.

On the 25th of May, the Florida left Zante with the body, which Colonel Stanhope accompanied; and on the 29th of June it reached the Downs. After the ship was cleared from quarantine, Mr Hobhouse, with his Lordship's solicitor, received it from Colonel Stanhope, and, by their directions it was removed to the house of Sir E. Knatchbull, in Westminster, where it lay in state several days.

The dignitaries of the Abbey and of St Paul's having, as it was said, refused permission to deposit the remains in either of these great national receptacles of the illustrious dead, it was determined that they should be laid in the ancestral vault of the Byrons. The funeral, instead of being public, was in consequence private, and attended by only a few select friends to Hucknell, a small village about two miles from Newstead Abbey, in the church of which the vault is situated; there the coffin was deposited, in conformity to a wish early expressed by the poet, that his dust might be mingled with his mother's. Yet, unmeet and plain as the solemnity was in its circumstances, a remarkable incident gave it interest and distinction: as it passed along the streets of London, a sailor was observed walking uncovered near the hearse, and on being asked what he was doing there, replied that he had served Lord Byron in the Levant, and had come to pay his last respects to his remains; a simple but emphatic testimony to the sincerity of that regard which his Lordship often inspired, and which with more steadiness might always have commanded.

The coffin bears the following inscription:

LORD BYRON, OF ROCHDALE,

BORN IN LONDON, JANUARY 22, 1788;

DIED AT MISSOLONGHI,

IN WESTERN GREECE,

APRIL 19, 1824.

Beside the coffin the urn is placed, the inscription on which is,

Within this urn are deposited the heart, brains, etc. of the deceased Lord Byron.

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