One more round of Byron

Stories about being drunk are usually better than being drunk. I have some favorite stories of my own, but don’t hope to be that drunk ever again. I remember asking what “bed spins” were, one college Thanksgiving, and then, later that night, experiencing them all too vividly. Horrible! Even so, this one, from Byron, is good enough to make me want to pick up the bottle. It has all the elements of a great undergraduate drinking anecdote: the pleading friends, the stubborn drunk, the fear of danger, and then, the happy ending.
One night Scope Davies at a Gaming house—(before I was of age) being tipsy as he mostly was that the Midnight hour--& having lost monies—was in vain intreated by his friends one degress less intoxicated than himself to come or go home.--In despair—he was left to himself and to the demons of the dice-box.—Next day—being visited about two of the Clock by some friends just risen with a severe headache and empty pockets—(who had left him losing at four or five in the morning) he was found in a sound sleep—without a nightcap--& not particularly encumbered with bed-cloathes—a Chamber-pot stood by the bedside--brim-full of--Bank Notes!—all won—God knows how—and crammed—Scrope knew not where—but there they were—all good legitimate notes—and to the amount of some thousand pounds.--
Glorious, hilarious victory. Very nice indeed.

In the end, however, it was hard to read the final years of Byron’s Selected Letters and Journals. I had wondered how Byron scholars so confidently announced that part of his decision to volunteer to fight for Greece came out of his deep disaffection with his life in Italy as a cavalier servente (the acknowledged, serving lover of a married woman). His Detached Thoughts of 1821-22 make that disaffection painfully clear. Even the above anecdote is not as rollicking as it would be in a letter. The spirit is all drained out of him and the writing really suffers.

Then, the letters from Greece (where he died of a blood infection in 1824 at the age of 37) are very odd: officious, hasty, full of orders and requests (for money, loans, information) all to finance the Greek independence movement. It all seems a rather pathetic tumble into accidental martyrdom. I prefer Byron in Venice: pointless and more pointed.