LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

Memoir of John Murray
Walter Scott to John Murray, 10 January 1817

Vol. 1 Contents
Chapter I.
Chapter II.
Chapter III.
Chapter IV.
Chapter V.
Chapter VI.
Chapter VII.
Chapter VIII.
Chapter IX.
Chapter X.
Chapter XI.
Chapter XII.
Chapter XIII.
Chapter XIV.
Chapter XV.
Chapter XVI.
Chapter XVII.
Chapter XVIII.
Chapter XIX.
Vol. 2 Contents
Chap. XX.
Chap. XXI.
Chap. XXII.
Chap. XXIII.
Chap. XXIV.
Chap. XXV.
Chap. XXVI.
Chap. XXVII.
Chap. XXIX.
Chap. XXX.
Chap. XXXI.
Chap. XXXII.
Chap. XXXIV.
Chap. XXXV.
Chap. XXXVI.
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Edinburgh, January 10th, 18I7.
My dear Sir,

I have this day sent under Croker’s cover a review of Lord Byron’s last poems. You know how high I hold his poetical reputation, but besides, one is naturally forced upon so many points of delicate consideration, that really I have begun and left off several times, and after all send the article to you with full power to cancel it if you think any part of it has the least chance of hurting his feelings. You know him better than I do, and you also know the

* The writer of this acute letter had long been one of Mr. Murray’s most intimate friends. During his anxious and busy life as a solicitor, he found time to collect materials for his ‘History of the Anglo-Saxons,’ the first volume of which was published in 1799, and the third and last, in 1805. He was the first English author who took pains to investigate the valuable information left us in the Anglo-Saxon records. The result was a work of great value, though since superseded by more elaborate histories. He afterwards published his ‘History of the Norman Conquest to the Year 1509.’ The first volume was published in 1814, the second in 1815, and the third and last in 1823. He was the author of other works, and a contributor to the Quarterly almost from the beginning.

public, and are aware that to make any successful impression on them the critic must appear to speak with perfect freedom. I trust I have not abused this discretion. I am sure I have not meant to do so, and yet during Lord Byron’s absence, and under the present circumstances, I should feel more grieved than at anything that ever befell me if there should have slipped from my pen anything capable of giving him pain.

There are some things in the critique which are necessarily and unavoidably personal, and sure I am if he attends to it, which is unlikely, he will find advantage from doing so. I wish Mr. Gifford and you would consider every word carefully. If you think the general tenor is likely to make any impression on him, if you think it likely to hurt him either in his feelings or with the public, in God’s name fling the sheets in the fire and let them be as not written. But if it appears, I should wish him to get an early copy, and that you would at the same time say I am the author, at your importunity. No one can honour Lord Byron’s genius more than I do, and no one had so great a wish to love him personally, though personally we had not the means of becoming very intimate. In his family distress (deeply to be deprecated, and in which probably he can yet be excused) I still looked to some moment of reflection when bad advisers (and, except you were one, I have heard of few whom I should call good) were distant from the side of one who is so much the child of feeling and emotion. An opportunity was once afforded me of interfering, but things appeared to me to have gone too far; yet, even after all, I wish I had tried it, for Lord Byron always seemed to give me credit for wishing him sincerely well, and knew me to be superior to what Commodore Trunnion would call “the trash of literary envy and petty rivalry.”

I got your letter in the country, but was able to do nothing till I came to town, both because I was occupied all day in my agricultural improvements, and on account of certain curious cramps in the stomach which occupied three nights very ungraciously, and threatened to send me out of this excellent world upon very short warning.

I have pressed Erskine to undertake the novel* with all

* There is no clue to the work here referred to.

the arguments I can use, and trust I shall succeed, as I have offered him all the accumulated lore which I am possessed of to facilitate his labour. I find
James Ballantyne has already spoken to him on the subject. I only returned from Abbotsford last Saturday very unwell, but am now as stout as a lion.

Yours faithfully,
Walter Scott.