Lord Byron's Newfoundland Dog, 1823
Edward Le Mesurier was the son of Havilland Le Mesurier and Elizabeth Dobrée. He was a lieutenant in the Royal Navy before settling in Genoa, where he married Amelia Augusta Wright.
To Edward Le Mesurier, R.N.
Villa Saluzzo, May 5th 1823.
Sir,—I have received with great gratitude your present of the Newfoundland dog. Few gifts could have been more gratifying, as I have ever been partial to the breed. He shall be taken the greatest care of, and I would not part with him for any consideration; he is already a chief favourite with the whole house.
I have the honour to be, Your much obliged and very faithful servant,
Edward Le Mesurier was born on 12th May 1795 in Westminster, one of the many children of the campaigning Comissary-General, Havilland Le Mesurier, and grandson of John Le Mesurier, Governor of Alderney (1717-1793). The family were hereditary Governors of Alderney. He left Westminster School in 1806 and entered the Navy in 1807 as a Volunteer 1st Class, was appointed Lieutenant in 1815, gave it up in 1817, and became a merchant, dying in Italy in 1855. Henry Routh [who worked in Trieste as a merchant trader] to his wife, 10 May 1839: 'Edward Le Mesurier is always on the change. He is now leaving Ancona to establish himself as a banker.' [Dobrée-Mann collection, in the Library.] See a letter in the QRGS 35 (1), Spring 1979, from Harriet de Sausmarez for his marriage.
In 1840, the unfortunate Edward was defrauded of a great deal of money by a gang of confidence tricksters, whom the Times nicknamed 'The Great Continental Swindling Company.' Edward found at least one MS in Byron's handwriting after the poet had left Ancona for Greece.
Byron's first Newfoundland dog, Boatswain, had died of rabies in 1808 at Byron's home, Newstead Abbey; Byron had nursed him despite the danger, and wrote a poem to him. Byron had wished to be buried with Boatswain in the Abbey garden, but this was denied him. The bronze memorial to the dog is far grander than that to Byron himself. Le Mesurier's dog was given to Byron shortly before his departure for Greece, and was presumably intended to be useful to him on his voyage.
'Lyon' became Byron's constant companion, accompanying him to Greece. 'With Lyon,' says Parry (Last Days, p. 75), Lord Byron was accustomed, not only to associate, but to commune very much, and very often. His most usual phrase was, 'Lyon, you are no rogue;' or, 'Lyon,' his Lordship would say, 'thou art an honest fellow, Lyon.' The dog's eyes sparkled, and his tail swept the floor as he sat with his haunches on the ground. 'Thou art more faithful than men, Lyon; I trust thee more.' Lyon sprang up, and barked and bounded round his master, as much as to say, 'You may trust me; I will watch actively on every side.' 'Lyon, I love thee; thou art my faithful dog!' And Lyon jumped and kissed his master's hand as an acknowledgment of his homage." [Byron's Collected Works, Vol. 10]
On the way to Missolonghi, January 1824: The next morning a violent tempest rose, and the sailors looked forward to the speedy destruction of their little vessel. Byron alone retained his presence of mind; encouraged the sailors, gave directions, and, like a guardian spirit, watched over the interests and the lives of the ship and the crew. It is curious to contemplate his numerous characters at this moment. A young Greek of Patras, whom his mother had committed to his care, he ordered to keep by his side, that in case the vessel should be dashed to pieces on the rocks, he might be able to save him by swimming. Over him he watched with fatherly vigilance. The sailors were out of heart, and he cheered up their spirits. Danger was on every side, and he directed them how to avoid it; and to crown the whole, while the boat was tossing about on the waters, he wrote with a pencil some stanzas on the Suliots, which he pronounced to be among the best of his verses. At last the tempest subsided, and accompanied by his favourite Newfoundland dog Lion, he dashed into the sea, and for two hours exulted in the flashing and foaming billows.
Lion was with Byron's body when it was brought back to England on the Florida. Edward Trelawney, however, in his reminiscences, refers to the Newfoundland dog who set off from Genoa as 'Neptune.' This was, however, a favourite name for the masters of ships to give to their Newfoundland dogs. He does not give the impression that Byron possessed more than one Newfoundland at that time. Byron had previously owned a wolfhound called 'Lion.'