As a cherub-faced 21-year-old, Lord Byron spent many months as an honoured guest of the warlord Ali Pasha. Pasha ruled over most of what is now Albania from his court in Tepelena. Writing home to his mother, the young poet spoke of Pasha’s “most horrible cruelties,” which apparently extended to roasting his adversaries alive. Perhaps to mitigate against Byron’s disgust, Pasha showered him with sherbert and — despite being forty years his senior — sexual advances.
The sherbert must have been good. Byron returned home to publish “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage,” the epic poem that would make its author famous and lovingly introduce Regency England to “Albania… rugged nurse of savage men.” Byron maintained a friendship of letters with the archetypal savage man until Pasha’s death a decade later.
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