It is September 29th 1816. Byron and Hobhouse have returned to Diodati from their ten-day tour of the Alps, a lengthy exploration in which they have travelled by a combination of open carriage, horseback and on foot. They have completed a circular tour which has taken them around Lake Geneva (Lac Leman) to Lausanne and across the mountains to Interlaken and the Jungfrau before heading north to Fribourg and finally back to their starting-point.
Byron – a lover of Nature in the abstract far more than nature close at hand – has enjoyed himself far more than he anticipated, telling his sister Augusta;
I have been very fortunate – fortunate in a companion (Mr H) fortunate in our prospects… – I was disposed to be pleased.
He has enjoyed Hobhouse’s company, and the opportunity to behave like a silly school-boy, laughing so much when his guide slips and falls during a steep descent that he falls down too; and finding great amusement in Hobhouse’s curses when he bangs his head against a door.
He has seen some pretty girls, one gave him flowers, four sang to him and some rowed him across a lake.
He has acquired a dog: Mutz, or Short-tail; purchased as a guard-dog but destined to end his life as a spoiled household pet in Venice and Ravenna, remarkable to his ability to steal joints of meat from under the cook’s nose.
…high rocks – wooded to the top – river – new mountains – with fine Glaciers…
As he always says, if you want a description, read the guide-book.
But one mountainous panorama has impressed him, the Jungfrau:
Avalanches falling every five minutes nearly – as if God was pelting the Devil down from Heaven with snow balls… the clouds rose from the opposite valley curling up perpendicular precipices – like the foam of the Ocean of Hell during a Springtide
The Jungfrau and the Infernal imagery it conjures will stay in his mind, and provide inspiration for a tangled, Gothic nightmare in verse, but that is in the future. For now it is time to pack up, leave Switzerland behind, and set out
…on my way to Italy.