Pillow dictionary


When at Seville in 1809, Lord Byron lodged in the house of two unmarried ladies; and in his diary he describes himself as having made earnest love to the younger of them, with the help of a dictionary. “For some time,” he says, ” I went on prosperously, both as a linguist and a lover, till, at length, the lady took a fancy to a ring which I wore, and set her heart on my giving it to her, as a pledge of my sincerity. This, however, could not be; — any thing but the ring, I declared, was at her service, and much more than its value, — but the ring itself I had made a vow never to give away.”

The note refers to stanza 164 of canto 2 of Don Juan, which describes how “Juan learn’d his alpha beta better/From Haidee’s glance than any graven letter:

‘T is pleasing to be school’d in a strange tongue
By female lips and eyes–that is, I mean,
When both the teacher and the taught are young,
As was the case, at least, where I have been;
They smile so when one’s right, and when one’s wrong
They smile still more, and then there intervene
Pressure of hands, perhaps even a chaste kiss;–
I learn’d the little that I know by this:

That is, some words of Spanish, Turk, and Greek;
Italian not at all, having no teachers;
Much English I cannot pretend to speak,
Learning that language chiefly from its preachers,
Barrow, South, Tillotson, whom every week
I study, also Blair, the highest reachers
Of eloquence in piety and prose–
I hate your poets, so read none of those.

And so say all of us.

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