Charles F. Barry, the addressee of this fine letter, was an English banker, and head of the Genoa office of Webb & Co., whose main branch was located in in Leghorn. Barry was also a friend and frequent dining partner of his client Lord Byron when Byron was in Genoa.
"Sir," Byron begins. "My steward misunderstood or mistated. I referred soley to the circular notes – which I am willing to change to the amount of fifteen hundred [?] sterling. – Will you have the goodness previously to tell me what I gain per cent on the present exchange by the difference. ...I shall want two hundred pounds for my immediate expences – then a hundred to remain in yr bank to be drawn when called for". Byron's fascination with Italy began around 1816—or perhaps even before—and his last home in that country was Genoa. The precarious nature of his financial situation began long before this. As a young man, he accumulated huge debts, and his mother, Catherine Gordon, feared his creditors. He was well-known for his extravagant lifestyle, and it is said that he even kept a bear in his rooms at Trinity College, Cambridge. In 1813, he determined to marry Annabella Millbanke, who was reputed to be a wealthy heiress, in the hope that she might release him from his financial burdens, and put to bed the rumour that he had fathered the child of his half-sister, Augusta Leigh. Byron and Millbanke married on the 2nd if January, 1815, and their daughter, Ada (Lovelace), was born in December of that year. The union was not a happy one, following Byron's many affairs and his increasing interest in Leigh, Millbanke—believing him to be quite insane—took Ada, and set in motion proceedings for a legal separation. The scandal that ensued following the separation, along with Byron's ever-increasing debts, forced him to leave England in April of 1816, never to return.
While the main body of the letter, which so candidly chronicles Byron's financial needs, offers an intimate glimpse into the poet's daily life and concerns, the postscript remains the standout portion of this piece of correspondence: "P.S. I am almost ashamed to accept your Cheshire cheese but I will contrive to swallow it and my shame together. – The interest Mr. Webb of Leghorn allows on the undrawn money of [mine] in his bank is four per cent."
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