LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism
John Murray
Lord Byron and Mr. Murray.
The Courier  No. 10,289  (5 November 1824)
Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
Produced by CATH


No. 10,289. FRIDAY EVENING, NOVEMBER 5, 1824. Price 7D.



John Wilson?, in Blackwood’s Magazine

The volume of “Lord Byron’s Conversations” with Mr. Medwin contain several statements relative to Mr. Murray, his Lordship’s publisher, against which, however exceptionable they might be, he was willing to trust his defence to the private testimony of persons acquainted with the real particulars, and to his general character, rather than resort to any kind of public appeal, to which he has ever been exceedingly averse. But friends, to whose judgment Mr. Murray is bound to defer, having decided that such an appeal upon the occasion is become a positive duty on his part, he hopes that he shall not be thought too obtrusive in opposing to those personal allegations extracts from Lord Byron’s own letters, with the addition of a few brief notes of necessary explanation.

Capt. Medwin, p. 167.
Medwin, Conversations of Lord Byron

Murray offered me, of his own accord, 1000l. a Canto for Don Juan, and afterwards reduced it to 500l. on the plea of piracy, and complained of my dividing one canto into two, because I happened to say something at the end of the third canto of having done so.”

Lord Byron’s Letter.
Ravenna, February 7. 1820.
J. & L. Hunt, Lord Byron and Mr. Murray
Editor of the Conversations of Lord Byron

Dear Murray,—I have copied and cut the third canto of Don Juan into two, because it was too long, and I tell you this before hand, because, in case of any reckoning between you and me, these two are only to go for one, as this was the original form, and in fact the two together are not longer than one of the first! so remember that I have not made this division to double upon you, but merely to suppress some tediousness in the aspect of the thing. I should have served you a pretty trick if I had sent you, for example, Cantos of fifty stanzas each.

Capt. Medwin, p. 169.
Medwin, Conversations of Lord Byron

“I don’t wish to quarrel with Murray, but it seems inevitable. I had no reason to be pleased with him the other day. Galignani wrote to me, offering to purchase the copyright of my works, in order to obtain an exclusive privilege of printing them in France. I might have made my own terms, and put the money in my own pocket; instead of which, I enclosed Galignani’s letter to Murray, in order that he might conclude the matter as he pleased. He did so, very advantageously for his own interest; but never had the complaisance, the common politeness, to thank me, or acknowledge my letter.”

Lord Byron’s Letter.
Ravenna, 9bre 4, 1820.

I have received from Mr. Galignani the enclosed letters, duplicates, and receipts, which will explain themselves. As the poems are your property by purchase, right, and justice, all matters of publication,, &c. &c. are for you to decide upon. I know not how far my compliance with Mr. G.’s request might be legal, and I doubt that it would not be honest. In case you choose to arrange with him, I enclose the permits to you, and in so doing I wash my hands of the business altogether. I sign them merely to enable you to exact the power you justly possess more properly. I will have nothing to do with it further, except in my answer to Mr. Galignani, to state that the letters, &c. &c. are sent to you, and the causes thereof. If you can check these foreign pirates do; if not, put the permissive papers in the fire. I can have no view nor object whatever but to secure to you your property.

Note.—Mr. Murray derived no advantage from the proposed agreement, which was by no means of the importance here ascribed to it, and therefore was never attempted to be carried into effect: the documents alluded to are still in his possession.

Capt. Medwin, p. 169-71.

Murray has long prevented the ‘Quarterly’ from abusing me. Some of their bullies have had their fingers itching to be at me; but they would get the worst of it in a set-to.

Medwin, Conversations of Lord Byron

Murray and I have dissolved all connection: he had the choice of giving up me or the Navy List. There was no hesitation which way he should decide: the Admiralty carried the day. Now for the Quarterly: their batteries will be opened; but I can fire broadsides too. They have been letting off lots of squibs and crackers against me, but they only make a noise and * * *

“‘Werner’ was the last book Murray published for me, and three months after came out the Quarterly’s article on my Plays, when ‘Marino Faliero’ was noticed for the first time.”

Lord Byron’s Letter.
Genoa, 10bre 25. 1822.

I had sent you back the Quarterly without perusal, having resolved to read no more reviews, good, bad, or indifferent; but who can control his fate? ‘Galignani,’ to whom my English studies are confined, has forwarded a copy of at least one half of it in his indefatigable weekly compilation, and as, ’like honour, it came unlooked for,’ I have looked through it. I must say that upon the wholethat is, the whole of the half which I have read (for the other half is to be the segment of Gal.’s next week’s circular) it is certainly handsome, and anything but unkind or unfair.

J. & L. Hunt, Lord Byron and Mr. Murray

Note.—The passage about the Admiralty is unfounded in fact, and no otherwise deserving of notice than to mark its absurdity; and with regard to the “Quarterly Review,” his Lordship well knew that it was established, and constantly conducted, on principles which absolutely excluded Mr. Murray from all such interference and influence as is implied in the “Conversations.”

Capt. Medwin, p. 168.
Medwin, Conversations of Lord Byron
Editor of the Conversations of Lord Byron

“Because I gave Mr. Murray one of my poems, he wanted to make me believe that I had made him a present of two others, and hinted at some lines in ‘English Bards’ that were certainly to the point. But I have altered my mind considerably upon that subject: as I once hinted to him, I see no reason why a man should not profit by the sweat of his brain as well as that of his brow, &c.; besides, I was poor at that time, and have no idea of aggrandizing booksellers.”

Lord Byron’s Letter.
January 2. 1816.

Dear Sir,—“Your offer is liberal in the extreme, and much more than the two poems can possibly be worth—but I cannot accept it, nor will not. You are most welcome to them, as additions to the collected volumes, without any demand or expectation on my part whatever.

“P. S. I have enclosed your draft TORN, far fear of accidents by the way.—I wish you would not thrown temptation in mine; it is not from a disdain of the universal idol—nor from a present superfluity of his treasures—I can assure you, that I refuse to worship him—but what is right is right, and must not yield to circumstances.

Note. The above letter relates to a draft for 1,000 guineas, offered by Mr. Murray for two poems, “the Siege of Corinth” and “Parisina,” which his Lordship had previously, at a short interval, presented to Mr. Murray as donations. Lord Byron was afterwards induced by Mr. Murray’s earnest persuasion, to accept the 1,000 guineas, and Mr. Murray has his Lordship’s assignment of the copyright of the two pieces accordingly.

Capt. Medwin, p. 166.
Medwin, Conversations of Lord Byron

Murray pretends to have lost money by my writings, and pleads poverty; but if he is poor, which is somewhat problematical to me, pray who is to blame?

Mr. Murray is tender of my fame. How kind in him! He is afraid of my writing too fast. Why? because he has a tender regard for his own pocket, and does not like the look of any new acquaintance in the shape of a book of mine, till he has seen his old friends in a variety of new faces; id est, disposed of a vast many editions of the former works. I don’t know what would become of me without Douglas Kinnaird, who has always been my best and kindest friend. It is not easy to deal with Mr. Murray.”

Note.—In the numerous letters received by Mr. Murray yearly from Lord Byron (who was not accustomed to restrain the expression of his feelings in writing them), not one has any tendency towards the imputations here thrown out; the incongruity of which will be evident from the fact of Mr. Murray having paid at various times, for the copyright of his Lordship’s poems, sums amounting to upwards of 15,000l.—viz.:—

Childe Harold I. II. £600
——— III. 1575
——— IV. 2100
Giaour 525
Bride of Abydos 525
Corsair 525
Lara 700
Siege of Corinth 525
Parisina 525
Lament of Tasso 315
Manfred 315
Beppo 525
Don Juan, I. II. 1525
——— III. IV. V. 1525
Doge of Venice 1050
Sardanapalus, Cain, and Foscari 1100
Mazeppa 525
Chillon 525
Sundries 450

Capt. Medwin, p. 170.
Medwin, Conversations of Lord Byron
J. & L. Hunt, Lord Byron and Mr. Murray

“My differences with Murray are not over. When he purchased ‘Cain,’ ‘The Two Foscari,’ and ‘Sardanapalus,’ he sent me a deed, which you may remember witnessing. Well; after its return to England it was discovered that * * * * * * * * * * * But I shall take no notice of it.”

Note.—Mr. Murray of course cannot answer a statement which he does not see; but pledges himself to disprove any inculpation the suppressed passage may contain, whenever disclosed. He has written twice to Captain Medwin’s publisher, desiring, as an act of justice, to have the passage printed entire in any new edition of the book, and in the mean time to be favoured with a copy of it. As this has not yet been obtained, and as the context seems to imply that it accuses him of endeavouring to take some pecuniary advantage of Lord Byron, he thinks he shall be forgiven for stating the following circumstances.

J. & L. Hunt, Lord Byron and Mr. Murray

Mr. Murray having accidentally heard that Lord Byron was in pecuniary difficulties, immediately forwarded 1,500l. to him, with an assurance that another such sum should be at his service in a few months; and that, if such assistance should not be sufficient, Mr. Murray would be ready to sell the copyright of all his Lordship’s works for his use.

The following is Lord Byron’s acknowledgment of this offer:—

J. & L. Hunt, Lord Byron and Mr. Murray

Note.—That nothing had occurred to subvert these friendly sentiments will appear from the three letters subjoined, the second of them written by Lord Byron a few weeks before his death, and the last addressed by his Lordship’s valet to Mr. Murray as one of his deceased master’s most confidential friends.

Lord Byron’s Letters.
May 8th, 1819.

I have a great respect for your good and gentlemanly qualities, and return your personal friendship towards me. * * * * * *. You deserve and possess the esteem of those whose esteem is worth having, and of none more (however useless it may be) than

Your’s, very truly, BYRON.
Messolonghi, Feb. 25, 1824.

I have heard from Mr. Douglas Kinnaird that you state a report of a satire on Mr. Gifford having arrived from Italy, said to be written by me, but that you do not believe it: I dare say you do not, nor anybody else, I should think. Whoever asserts that I am the author or abettor of anything of the kind on Gifford, lies in his throat: I always regarded him as my literary father, and myself as his prodigal son. If any such composition exists, it is none of mine. You know, as well as anybody, upon whom I have or have not written, and you also know whether they do or do not deserve the same—and so much for such matters.

You will, perhaps, be anxious to hear some news from this part of Greece (which is most liable to invasion), but you will hear enough through public and private channels on that head. I will, however, give you the events of a week, mingling my own private peculiar with the public, for we are here jumbled a little together at present.

On Sunday (the 15th, I believe), I had a strong and sudden convulsive attack which left me speechless, though not motionless, for some strong men could not hold me; but whether it was epilepsy, catalepsy, cachexy, apoplexy, or what other exy or epsy, the doctors have not decided, or whether it was spasmodic or nervous, &c., but it was very unpleasant, and nearly carried me off, and all that. On Monday they put leeches to my temples, no difficult matter, but the blood could not be stopped till eleven at night (they had gone too near the temporal artery for my temporal safety), and neither styptic nor caustic would cauterize the orifice till after a hundred attempts.

On Tuesday, a Turkish brig of war ran on shore. On Wednesday, great preparations being made to attack her, though protected by her consorts; the Turks burned her, and retired to Patras. On Thursday, a quarrel ensued between the Suliotes and the Frank guard at the arsenal; a Swedish officer was killed, and a Suliote severely wounded, and a general fight expected, and with some difficulty prevented. On Friday, the officer buried, and Captain Parry’s English artificers mutinied, under pretence that their lives were in danger, and are for quitting the country—they may. On Saturday, we had the smartest shock of an earthquake which I remember (and I have felt thirty, slight or smart, at different periods; they are common in the Mediterranean), and the whole army discharged their arms, upon the same principle that savages beat drums or howl, during an eclipse of the moon; it was a rare scene altogether. If you had but seen the English Johnnies, who had never been out of a Cockney workshop before, nor will again if they can help it! And on Sunday we heard that the Vizier is come down to Larissa with one hundred and odd thousand men.

In coming here I had two escapes, from the Turks (one of my vessels was taken, but afterwards released), and the other from shipwreck; we drove twice on the rocks near the Scrophes (Islands near the coast).

I have obtained from the Greeks the release of eight and twenty Turkish prisoners, men, women, and children, and sent them to Patras and Prevesa at my own charges. One little girl of nine years old, who proposes remaining with me, I shall (if I live) send with her mother, probably, to Italy, or to England, and adopt her. Her name is Hato Hatagee; she is a very pretty lively child. All her brothers were killed by the Greeks, and she herself and her mother were spared by special favour, and owing to her extreme youth, she being then but five or six years old.

My health is rather better, and I can ride about again. My office here is no sinecure—so many parties and difficulties of every kind; but I will do what I can. Prince Mavrocordato is an excellent person, and does all in his power; but his situation is perplexing in the extreme; still we have great hopes of the success of the contest. I’m will hear, however, more of public news from plenty of quarters, for I have little time to write.

Believe me, Yours, &c. &c.
N. B.
To John Murray, Esq.
Letter of Lord Byron’s Valet.
Messolonghi, April 21, 1824.

Sir,—Forgive me for this intrusion which I now am under the painful necessity of writing to you, to inform you of the melancholy news of my Lord Byron, who is no more. He departed this miserable life on the 19th of April, after an illness of only ten days. His Lordship began by a nervous fever, and terminated with an inflammation on the brain, for want of being bled in time, which his Lordship refused till it was too late. I have sent the Honourable Mrs. Leigh’s letter inclosed in yours, which I think would be better for you to open and explain to Mrs. Leigh, for I fear the contents of the letter will be too much for her. And you will please to inform Lady Byron and the Honourable Miss Byron, whom I am wished to see when I return with my Lord’s effects, and his dear and Noble remains; Sir, you will please manage in the mildest way possible, or I am much afraid of the consequences. Sir, you will please give my duty to Lady Byron; hoping she will allow me to see her, by my Lord’s particular wish, and Miss Byron likewise. Please to excuse all defects, for I scarcely know what I either say or do, for after twenty years service with my Lord, he was more to me than a father, and I am too much distressed to now give a correct account of every particular, which I hope to do at my arrival in England. Sir, you will likewise have the goodness to forward the letter to the Hon. Capt. George Byron, who, as the representative of the family and title, I thought it my duty to send him a line. But you. Sir, will please to explain to him all particulars, as I have not time, as the express is now ready to make his voyage day and night till he arrives in London. I must. Sir, praying forgiveness, and hoping at the same time that you will so far oblige me as to execute all my wishes, which I am well convinced you will not refuse.

I remain, Sir,
Your most obedient and very humble servant,
W. Fletcher.
Valet to the late L. B. for twenty years.

P. S. I mention my name and capacity that you may remember and forgive this, when you remember the quantity of times I have been at your house in Albemarle-street.

To John Murray, Esq.

Note.—Other letters from Lord Byron, of the same tenor and force with these now produced, might hare been added. But it is presumed that these are sufficient to demonstrate in the present case, what has been demonstrated in many others, that desultory, ex-parte conversations, even if accurately reported, will often convey imperfect and erroneous notions of the speaker’s real sentiments. JOHN MURRAY.

Albemarle-street, Oct. 30, 1834.

P. S.
Capt. Medwin, p. 170.
Medwin, Conversations of Lord Byron
Medwin, Lord Byron and Mr. Murray

“My differences with Murray are not over. When he purchased ‘Cain,’ ‘The two Foscari,’ and ‘Sardanapalus,’ he sent me a deed, which you may remember witnessing. Well; after its return to England, it was discovered that it contained a clause which had been introduced without my knowledge, a clause by which I bound myself to offer Mr. Murray all my future compositions. But I shall take no notice of it.”

John Wilson?, in Blackwood’s Magazine
Editor of the Conversations of Lord Byron

Note.—The words in italic are those which were suppressed in the two first editions of Captain Medwin’s book, and which Mr. Murray has received from the publisher after the foregoing statement was printed. He has only to observe upon the subject, that on referring to the deed in question no such clause is to be found; that this instrument was signed in London by the Hon. Douglas Kinnaird, as Lord Byron’s procurator, and witnessed by Richard Williams, Esq., one or the partners in Mr. Kinnaird’s banking-house; and that the signature of Captain Medwin is not affixed.

2nd Nov. J. M.