LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

Memoir of Francis Hodgson
Lord Byron to Francis Hodgson, 12 May 1821

Vol. 1 Contents
Chapter I.
Chapter II. 1794-1807.
Chapter III. 1807-1808.
Chapter IV. 1808.
Chapter V. 1808-1809.
Chapter VI. 1810.
Chapter VII. 1811.
Chapter VIII. 1811.
Chapter IX. 1811.
Chapter X. 1811-12.
Chapter XI. 1812.
Chapter XII. 1812-13.
Chapter XIII. 1813-14.
Vol. 2 Contents
Chapter XIV. 1815-16.
Chapter XV. 1816-18.
Chapter XVI. 1815-22.
Chapter XVII. 1820.
Chapter XVIII. 1824-27.
Chapter XIX. 1827-1830
Chapter XX. 1830-36.
Chapter XXI. 1837-40.
Chapter XXII. 1840-47.
Chapter XXIII. 1840-52.
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Produced by CATH
Ravenna: May 12, 1821.

Dear Hodgson,—At length your two poems have been sent. I have read them over (with the notes) with great pleasure. I receive your compliments kindly and your censures temperately, which I suppose is all that can be expected among poets. Your poem is, however, excellent, and if not popular only proves that there is a fortune in fame as in everything else in this world. Much, too, depends upon a publisher, and much upon luck; and the number of writers is such, that as the mind of a reader can only contain a certain quantum of

1 Isaac D’Israeli, father of the present Premier.

poetry and poets’ glories, he is sometimes saturated, and allows many good dishes to go away untouched (as happens at great dinners), and this not from fastidiousness but fulness.

You will have seen from my pamphlet on Bowles that our opinions are not very different. Indeed, my modesty would naturally look at least bashfully on being termed the ‘first of living minstrels’ (by a brother of the art) if both our estimates of ‘living minstrels’ in general did not leaven the praise to a sober compliment. It is something like the priority in a retreat. There is but one of your ‘tests’ which is not infallible: Translation. There are three or four French translations, and several German and Italian which I have seen. Moore wrote to me from Paris months ago that ‘the French had caught the contagion of Byronism to the highest pitch,’ and has written since to say that nothing was ever like their ‘entusymusy’ (you remember Braham) on the subject, even through the ‘slaver of a prose translation:’ these are his words. The Paris translation is also very inferior to the Geneva one, which is really fair, although in prose also. So you see that your test of ‘translateable or not’ is not so sound as could be wished. It is no pleasure, however, you may suppose, to be
criticised through such a translation, or indeed through any. I give up ‘
Beppo,’ though you know that it is no more than an imitation of Pulci and of a style common and esteemed in Italy. I have just published a drama, which is at least good English, I presume, for Gifford lays great stress on the purity of its diction.

I have been latterly employed a good deal more on politics than on anything else, for the Neapolitan treachery and desertion have spoilt all our hopes here, as well as our preparations. The whole country was ready. Of course I should not have sate still with my hands in my breeches’ pockets. In fact they were full; that is to say, the hands. I cannot explain further now, for obvious reasons, as all letters of all people are opened. Some day or other we may have a talk over that and other matters. In the meantime there did not want a great deal of my having to finish like Lara.

Are you doing nothing? I have scribbled a good deal in the early part of last year, most of which scrawls will now be published, and part is, I believe, actually printed. Do you mean to sit still about Pope? If you do, it will be the first time. I have got such a headache from a cold and swelled face, that I must take a gallop into the forest and
jumble it into torpor. My horses are waiting. So good-bye to you.

Yours ever,
Two hours after the Ave Maria, the Italian
date of twilight.

Dear Hodgson,—I have taken my canter, and am better of my headache. I have also dined, and turned over your notes. In answer to your note of page 90 I must remark from Aristotle and Rymer, that the hero of tragedy and (I add meo pericolo) a tragic poem must be guilty, to excite ‘terror and pity’, the end of tragic poetry. But hear not me, but my betters. ‘The pity which the poet is to labour for is for the criminal. The terror is likewise in the punishment of the said criminal, who, if he be represented too great an offender, will not be pitied; if altogether innocent his punishment will be unjust.’ 1 In the Greek Tragedy innocence is unhappy often, and the offender escapes. I must also ask you is Achilles a good character? or is even Æneas anything but a successful runaway? It is for Turnus men feel and not for the Trojan. Who is the hero of ‘Paradise Lost’? Why Satan,—and

1 Dryden’s Life, Johnson’s Lives, page 203, &c.

Macbeth, and Richard, and Othello, Pierre, and Lothario, and Zanga? If you talk so I shall ‘cut you up like a gourd,’ as the Mamelukes say. But never mind, go on with it.