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Page:The Works of Lord Byron (ed. Coleridge, Prothero) - Volume 3.djvu/107

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INTRODUCTION TO THE GIAOUR.

In a letter to Murray, dated Pisa, December 12, 1821 (Life, p. 545), Byron avows that the "Giaour Story" had actually "some foundation on facts." Soon after the poem appeared (June 5, 1813), "a story was circulated by some gentlewomen...a little too close to the text" (Letter to Moore, September 1, 1813, Letters, 1898, ii. 258), and in order to put himself right with his friends or posterity, Byron wrote to his friend Lord Sligo, who in July, 1810, was anchored off Athens in "a twelve-gun brig, with a crew of fifty men" (see Letters, 1898, i. 289, note 1), requesting him to put on paper not so much the narrative of an actual event, but "what he had heard at Athens about the affair of that girl who was so near being put an end to while you were there." According to the letter which Moore published (Life, p. 178), and which is reprinted in the present issue (Letters, 1898, ii. 257), Byron interposed on behalf of a girl, who "in compliance with the strict letter of the Mohammedan law," had been sewn in a sack and was about to be thrown into the sea. "I was told," adds Lord Sligo, "that you then conveyed her in safety to the convent, and despatched her off at night to Thebes." The letter, which Byron characterizes as "curious," is by no means conclusive, and to judge from the designedly mysterious references in the Journal, dated November 16 and December 5, and in the second postscript to a letter to Professor Clarke, dated December 15, 1813 (Letters, 1898, ii. 321, 361, 311), "the circumstances which were the groundwork" are not before us. "An event," says John Wright (ed. 1832, ix. 145), "in which Lord Byron was personally concerned, undoubtedly supplied the groundwork of this tale; but for the