Falmouth Packet Archives 1688-1850 | home
1809: 2 July - Byron sailed from Falmouth on the Lisbon packet, Princess Elizabeth., Kidd, arriving 7 July. Whilst at Falmouth he wrote:
To John Hanson. June 19th, 1809.
Sir, In consequence of the delay .... let my letters of credit be sent to Falmouth Post office, where I will take care in case of my departure that they shall follow me to Gibraltar or elsewhere. I am setting off, and remain your very obedt. Servt. Byron.
To John Hanson (a) Wynn's Hotel, Falmouth, June 21st, 1809.
[Note - TWO DAYS overland travel to Falmouth...]
Dear Sir, - As it is probable the Packet will not sail for some days, let my Letters of Credit be sent if possible either to the post office or to this inn. - Believe me. Yrs. etc. Byron.
To Mrs. Catherine Gordon Byron Falmouth, June 22, 1809.
Dear mother, I am due to sail in a few days, probably before this reaches you. Fletcher [William Fletcher, son of a tenant at Newstead, who served Byron as valet from March 1808 until the poet's death in Missolonghi.] begged so hard that I have continued him in my service. If he does not behave well abroad, I will send him home in a transport. [Troopship].
I have a German servant [Friese. Byron sent him home from Gibraltar] - They constitute my whole suite. You shall hear from me at different ports I touch upon, but you must not be alarmed if my letters miscarry. The Continent is in a fine state! An insurrection has broken out at Paris, and the Austrians are beating Buonaparte.
To Francis Hodgson; Falmouth, June 25,1809
My dear Hodgson,-- Before this reaches you, Hobhouse, two officers' wives, three children, two waiting-maids, ditto subalterns for the troops, three Portuguese esquires and domestics, in all nineteen souls, [passengers] will have sailed in the Lisbon packet, with the noble Captain Kidd, as gallant commander as ever smuggled an anker of right Nantz.
We are going to Lisbon first, because the Malta packet has sailed, d'ye see?--from Lisbon to Gibraltar, Malta, Constantinople, and 'all that,' as Orator Henley said, when he put the Church, and 'all that,' in danger.
This 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 (sic) 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 pieces of ordnance, admirably adapted for the destruction of Pendennis, a like tower of strength on the opposite side of the Channel. We have seen St. Maws, but Pendennis they will not let us behold, save at a distance, because Hobhouse and I are suspected of having already taken St. Maws by a coup de main. The town contains many Quakers and salt fish, the oysters have a taste of copper, owing to the soil of a mining country--the women (blessed be the Corporation therefor!) are flogged at the cart's tail when they pick and steal, as happened to one of the fair sex yesterday noon. She was pertinacious in her behaviour, and damned the mayor.... I don't know when I can write again, because it depends on that experienced navigator, Captain Kidd, and the 'stormy winds that (don't) blow' at this season. 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 eaten no apple but what was sour as a crab;--and thus ends my first chapter. Adieu.
To Edward Ellice (1781-1863) [Son of Alexander Ellice, MD of the Hudson Bay Company]
Falmouth, June 25, 1809.
Dear Ellice, …. We are waiting here for a wind and other necessaries. Nothing of moment has occurred in the town save castigation of one of the fair sex at a Cart's tail yesterday morn, whose hands had been guilty of "picking & stealing" and whose tongue of "evil speaking" - for she stole a cock, and damned the Corporation; she was much whipped but exceeding impenitent. I shall say nothing of Falmouth because I know it and you don't, a very good reason for being silent as I can say nothing in it's favour, or you hear anything that would be agreeable. The inhabitants both female and male, at least the young ones, are remarkably handsome, and how the devil they came to be so , is the marvel! For the place is apparently not favourable to Beauty. [Similar sentiments were often expressed by packet passengers upset with the bustle, noise and smells of the town!]
The Claret is good, and Quakers plentiful, so are Herrings salt and fresh, there is a fort called St. Mawes off the harbour, which we were nearly taken up on suspicion of being carried by storm, it is well defended by one able-bodies man of eighty six years old, six demi-culverins, that would exceedingly annoy anybody - except an enemy; - and parapet walls which would withstand at least half a dozen kicks of any given grenadier in the kingdom of France.
Adieu believe me… your obliged and sincere, Byron.
To John Hanson Falmouth June 25, 1809.
Sir, You will be good enough to forward the letters of credit when ready to Falmouth where I will give instructions to Messrs. Fox & Co., the principal house in the port [my underline] (to whom I have letters from London) that they may be sent to Malta, or Constantinople. [By future packets]
[Hanson, his solicitor and business agent, was to sell estates he owned at Wymondham, in Norfolk, and Rochdale, Lancs.]
To Francis Hodgson Falmouth Roads - June 30th, 1809.
(poem) [Byron sailed for Lisbon on July 2, 1809. ]
Letter to John Hanson Lisbon, July 13th, 1809.
…. I proceed to Gibraltar immediately…[overland]. If you address to me at Malta, a letter will find me or be forwarded. I have no intention of returning to England, unless compelled to do so. I only regret I did not quit it sooner.
To Francis Hodgson Lisbon, July 16th, 1809.
... we have seen all sorts of marvellous sights, palaces, convents, etc. I must just observe that the village of Cintra in Estramadura is the most beautiful, perhaps in the world. I am very happy her, because I loves oranges and talk bad Latin to the monks, who understand it, as it is like their own [language], and I goes into society (with my pocket pistols), and I swims in the Tagus all across at once, and I rides on an ass or a mule, and swears Portuguese, and have got a diarrhoea, and bites from the mosquitoes. But what of that? Comfort must not be expected by folks that go a pleasuring." ... I have been seasick, and sick of the sea. Adieu. Yours faithfully, etc.
[ "Only a few days after he arrived in Portugal, Byron swam from Old Lisbon* to Belem Castle, and having to contend with a tide and counter current, the wind blowing freshly, was but little less than two hours crossing the river." (qf. Hobhouse, Journey II, p.808.)]
[* Old Lisbon - Almada ? See Autobiography of James Silk Buckingham, in which he is taken ashore, to the wine warehouses, in Almada?]
Note: The Lazaretto was an isolation facility for quarantine purposes.
Example reference - FP 17/3/1832: Marlborough passengers required to perform 42 days in quarantine
in a lazarette, their passports having been signed in London (fears of a cholera epidemic).
To Francis Hodgson Gibraltar, August 6, 1809.
I have just arrived at this place after a journey through Portugal, and a part of Spain, of nearly 500 miles. We left Lisbon and travelled on horseback to Seville and Cadiz, and thence on the Hyperion frigate to Gibraltar. The horses are excellent - we rode 70 miles a day..,... Cadiz, sweet Cadiz! - it is the first spot in the creation. The beauty of its streets and mansions is only excelled by the loveliness of its inhabitants.
To John Hanson Gibraltar, August 7th, 1809.
... you will be surprised to hear that the Spanish roads are far superior to the best English Turnpikes, and the horses excellent, eggs and wine always to be had, no meat or milk, but everything else very fair..... Gibraltar the dirtiest and most detestable spot in existence, Lisbon nearly as bad.**.. the English abroad very different from their countrymen.
[** Byron's earlier description of Falmouth may, perhaps, be more fairly judged!]
To Mrs. Catherine Gordon Byron Gibraltar, August 11th, 1809.
... We left Falmouth on 2nd of July, reached Lisbon after a very favourable passage of four days and a half, and took up our abode for a time in that city. ...
I sent my baggage and a large part of the servants by sea to Gibraltar, and travelled on horseback from Aldea Gallage [Aldeia Gallega] (the first stage from Lisbon, which is only accessible by water) to Seville. .Seville is nearly 400 miles, and to Cadiz about 90 further towards the coast. I had orders from the Government and every possible accommodation on the road, as an English nobleman in an English uniform is a very respectable personage in Spain at present.....
I rode post to Seville in four days, through this parching country in the midst of summer, without fatigue or annoyance. We lodged in Seville at the house of two unmarried ladies, [Donna Josepha (the eldest) & her sister ... ] who possess SIX houses in Seville. .... the freedom of women which is general here astonished me not a little, ... I find that reserve is not the characteristic of the Spanish belles, who are in general very handsome, with large black eyes, and very fine forms. ... I was there but 3 days...
1809: 16 August - Byron and Hobhouse sail from Gibraltar on Townshend packet to Malta, arriving 31 August.; John Galt* (1779-1839) was also a passenger. (*Fiction, Scottish, social life and customs)