Preparing a publication about Byron

Since the documents of Lord Byron have become public, thanks to the transfer of the archives of Byron’s publisher John Murray in London to the National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh, it is easier to get access to letters written to Lord Byron. Ten of these letters were written by a young ‘Frank’, as the non-Greek and non-Turkish, Western Europeans residing in Athens were called in the past. In the rather small city of Athens at the turn of the 18th to the 19th century, a few Frank families  can be traced. One of these families is that of Giraud, Franco-Italian by origin.

During his subsequent visits to Athens in 1810 and 1811, the English poet George Gordon Lord Byron (1788-1824) became befriended to a young son of this Giraud family, named Nicolo (or Nicholas, as he writes himself sometimes). Nicolo Giraud’s sister seems to have had a relationship with (or was maybe even married to) Giovanni Battista Lusieri, the Italian artist whom Lord Elgin had hired for designing and moulding casts from the Parthenon decoration, ending with the famous transfer of the so-called Elgin Marbles to the UK.

Byron toured Athens, Attica and the Peloponnese with Nicolo: their friendship may have been really a love affair, though modern authors still do quarrel about the nature of it. Having said that, the ten letters which Nicolo Giraud wrote to Byron after the poet left him for further education at a Jesuit monastery on Malta, may throw more light on the nature of this ‘affair’. These letters never have been published ‘in extenso’, being written in English, Italian and Greek.

I would like to use a sabbatical of one month at the NIA to make at least a start with this publication, while also

LORD BYRON/GREEK COSTUME

GEORGE GORDON LORD BYRON English poet depicted here in his costume as a Greek patriot – Date: 1788-1824

searching for more information about the whereabouts of Nicolo Giraud, who seems to be ‘lost in history’ after his return from Malta to Athens, probably by the end of 1812. Being a historian myself, though educated in Ancient History, Byron always appealed to me as a true ‘hero’  for Greece: he was a firm Philhellene, and Greece still praises him for his generosity for the Greek sake during the Greek War of Independence 1821-1832). Byron died in Missolonghi, in 1824, when the war was dragging on very badly for Greece, so he never saw the birth of the Greek nation.

Han Borg (University of Groningen, NL), March 8 2016

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