For one so blessed with good fortune when things got tight, Tita Falcieri was remarkably bad luck for those around him. Monk Lewis said of him half joking, half warning, to a traveling companion enroute to Jamaica in 1817 that ‘I have never yet undertaken a voyage or a journey, that something untoward did not occur. Either the wind was against us – or a storm arose – or a wheel came off – or I was attacked by banditti – or some misfortune, unforeseen, and out of the common calculation of travelling casualties, happened’.
Lewis died on the return journey to England and was buried at sea leaving Tita jobless and with nothing but his master’s will scrawled on his hat and his wages in his pocket.
Somehow, remarkably, he managed to find his way back to Venice from London, and then fell right into the lap of Lord Byron on his own doorstep at the Palazzo Mocenigo where Byron had set up home for the duration several months earlier. And of course we all know what happened to him.
And let’s not forget Percy Shelley. Tita was operating as his valet in Lerici, after he was exiled from Byron’s household by the authorities. During that fateful summer of 1822 Shelley and Edward Williams were drowned after their boat the Don Juan was shattered by a storm at sea.
Peter Cochran wrote of similar tales of Byron’s streak of bad luck in that he cursed those around him. Perhaps not surprisingly Byron noted it with a kind of macabre glee:
‘It wasn’t a good idea to have Byron as a participant in any ceremony. The only marriage where he stood himself as Best Man – that between the Earl of Portsmouth and John Hanson’s daughter – was a macabre disaster. At least three of the four children to whom he was godfather met unhappy ends. Byron Hobhouse, John Cam’s nephew, to whom both Byron and Hobhouse were godfathers at Rome in 1817, was killed on the retreat from Kabul in the winter of 1841-2. Byron stood godfather to Tom Moore’s daughter, Olivia Byron. Born August 18th 1814, she died on March 24th of the following year. And when the son of James and Frances Wedderburn Webster, to whom he was also godfather, died young, the father reports that Byron “almost chuckled with Joy—or Irony—& said ‘Well—I cautioned you—& told you that my name would almost damn any thing or creature’!!”
On the Grand Tour in 1831 Benjamin Disraeli’s travelling companion William Meredith then engaged to his sister Sa, died in Cairo. And yes Tita was their valet too.
In 1848 we are told Isaac D’Israeli died in Tita’s arms, not on a windswept spit of Greece, but at least warm in his bed in middle England, and at a ripe old age of 81. Even so perhaps he was beginning to wonder if he had the Byron curse. If I was him, I’d of been getting a bit panicky at this point. But I suppose life goes on and at least he appears to have remained unscathed from a personal viewpoint.
Despite the catastrophically depressing downfall of Byron’s household after 1824 (a situation I’m sure would have mortified Byron), Tita appears to have made good his life. His personal luck always seems to have been on a roll. Maybe it was supped from those around him.
Apart from D’Israeli who only loosely follows the death sequence, there don’t seem to be any further tragic incidents that directly link to him. I’m not sure Gamba and Bruno’s deaths at Methana in 1825 and 1826 respectively count in this instance. But then who knows. We don’t know the circumstances. Perhaps therein lies the continuation of the theme.
From a personal standpoint Tita has always been a lucky card for me. Nothing but good has ever come from my connection to him. Thankfully I don’t appear to buck the trend.
That being said I have a fairly voluminous family tree that might need more careful scrutiny.
You can read my book ‘A Most Faithful Attendant – The Life of Giovanni Battista Falcieri‘ by purchasing it here.