Mr. Littleton and Lord Byron (well almost)

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Edward Littleton meets Lord Byron's boatman, Maurice, on Lake Geneva, 1824

Sept 14th

Lord Byron seldom spoke, never smiled and appeared generally in a reverie. His ideas, once perfected, he seized his pen and wrote with great rapidity. It was on one of these excursions Maurice conducted him to Chillon. He staid there several hours and sent Maurice for candles to descend into the dungeon with. He there remained writing for two hours and gave the gens d’armes who were there a Napoleon to drink his good health with. When they returned into the boat and Lord Byron was putting up his papers, he said to Maurice, holding up a large sheet of paper, “There Maurice, if this sheet were yours, you would be worth more than you ever earned in any year of your life". It was no doubt part of “The Prisoner of Chillon”.

He one day challenged Maurice to swim with him, saying, he knew he was the plus fort nageur Geneve. Maurice, seeing his club foot, gladly accepted the challenge. Lord Byron desired the wager to be named and staked. Maurice said 5 Napoleons and the next day bought them and placed them on the seat of the boat with Lord Byron’s. They stripped and jumped into the water, Lord Byron’s courier rowing the boat mean time alongside them and occasionally giving Lord Byron a glass of wine while poor Maurice had nothing but the water of the lake. Maurice swam 3 hours and a quarter, Lord Byron five minutes longer [thus winning the wager]. He made Maurice a handsome present when he left Geneva.