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Oporto Branch - report of the talk on "Byron in Sintra, 1809"

Looking at this painting of Lord Byron as a very dapper young man, it is perhaps easy, with a little imagination, to understand how he could become so famous as well as infamous. He needs no introduction of course, but our speaker Dr Gerald Luckhurst introduced him to us in the light of his trip to Portugal in 1809, beginning with his departure from Falmouth with his planned destination being Malta. The ship was becalmed at Falmouth and as the vessel to Malta was only sailing some weeks later, the Byron group decided to make the trip via Lisbon, Spain and on to Malta. His visit to Portugal could arguably be considered a quirk of fate.

   

Byron only spent 16 days in Portugal, and what a mark that has left on the history of this country. And, if that isn’t enough, he only spent three days in Sintra arriving on the 11th July, spending the day of 12th there, and then departing on 13th.  So, in fact, he only spent one day in Sintra. Byron’s one day association with the town and the resultant fame it has brought to the area and indeed to Portugal, from the touristic point of view, is even more remarkable. He was accompanied by his friend John Cam HobHouse whose diary records of the 16 days were used to illustrate details of the visit. When it comes to the three days actually allocated to Sintra, it is here that Byron’s romantic poetry comes to the fore. We saw various slides of his poems and letters including one to his mother. He refers to Sintra as being the ‘sweetest spot in this Kingdom’- a sweeping statement as he hadn’t seen the rest of the country. He also states that ‘the village of Sintra is perhaps the most beautiful in the world’. Not having seen the rest of the world this is clearly part his romantic/ poetic nature. 
Whatever we think about Byron, we are left to give him credit for the good things he has said and done or the less than good things he has said and done or both. Whatever the case we continued the discussion over dinner and ended up applying his romantic vision to some current world situations which led to more hilarious moments thus concluding another delightful evening.   

 

Terry Weineck (Oporto representative)

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