LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

Samuel Rogers and his Contemporaries
Uvedale Price to Samuel Rogers, 25 May 1823

Vol. I Contents
Chapter I. 1803-1805.
Chapter II. 1805-1809.
Chapter III. 1810-1812.
Chapter IV. 1813-1814.
Chapter V. 1814-1815.
Chapter VI. 1815-1816.
Chapter VII. 1816-1818.
Chapter VIII. 1818-19.
Chapter IX. 1820-1821.
Chapter X. 1822-24.
Chapter XI. 1825-1827.
Vol. II Contents
Chapter I. 1828-1830.
Chapter II. 1831-34.
Chapter III. 1834-1837.
Chapter IV. 1838-41.
Chapter V. 1842-44.
Chapter VI. 1845-46.
Chapter VII. 1847-50.
Chapter VIII. 1850
Chapter IX. 1851.
Chapter X. 1852-55.
Creative Commons License

Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
Produced by CATH
‘Foxley: May 25th, 1823.

‘My dear Sir,—I have to thank you for a most acceptable present in every respect; it tells me in the
pleasantest manner that you have not forgotten me, and the reading of it has afforded me no common degree of pleasure. This work of yours has given me two longings: the one to revisit that enchanting country of which you have drawn so many varied and striking pictures; the other to induce you to revisit this place, where you have left a very pleasing remembrance of the short time you passed amongst us. As to the first, I believe I should view Italy even with increased delight after more than fifty years’ absence. I was then a very young, though a very eager observer; I am now a very old one, and hardly less eager, but age and infirmities, were there no other obstacles, forbid any hope of so long a journey. The second, that of seeing you here, I will not despair of, and of being able to talk to you vivâ voce about many things in your poems, and thence of many others connected with them in your mind, and which I should delight to hear. I also wish to have my revenge and to shew you (anch’ io son pittore) a number of pictures I have been producing since you saw the place, working with the materials of nature; they are, as you may remember, most abundant; and I have endeavoured to form with them such compositions, from the foreground to the most distant objects, as would satisfy the eye of a judicious painter. I have had the satisfaction of seeing more than one excellent artist, and one of them—
Lord Aylesford—extremely averse to have anything pointed out to him as a good subject for a drawing, take his stand exactly where I wished, and where I had secretly conducted him, and draw the composition as if he had discovered it himself, tale quale and con amore. This picture-
making (you well know the delight of it in poetry) is a most amusing and interesting operation; it is, however, a very nice one, and the varied frame of each composition, itself an essential part, is to be studied almost to a twig. You remember, I dare say, a fanciful but ingenious idea, I forget whose, that in every block of marble a beautiful statue lay concealed, and that you had only to clear away the rubbish. It is the same, mutatis mutandis, in this place, and in every place of a similar kind; innumerable pictures are concealed, and I am endeavouring poco a poco to clear away what, after due deliberation, I judge to be rubbish. You have lately been viewing all that is most excellent in real and painted landscapes, and must come here and look at my operations and see whether I have followed the principles of the great masters of composition. All this, I am afraid, will not appear very seducing; but I know you love drawings of the old masters, and have yourself some very good specimens. I particularly remember one of
Giorgione that I envied you. Now I have books full of the old masters which I believe you have scarcely looked into, and though I have no Giorgione I have a Titian or two, and many drawings well worth your notice.

‘I must now ask you a question or two by letter, en attendant mieux. Is the story of Jorasse, his fall into the barathrum, the dreadful canopy of ice, the river that ran under it, his plunge into the deep water, and his rising into Paradise—all true? A more striking one never was invented, and the dénouement is the most sudden and most delightfully surprising of all dénouements. You have done it justice, and that is saying
everything. I pointed it out the other day to a friend of mine of great taste and sensibility, and he was as much delighted with it as I was.

‘Now a word or two about the ancient larch. I wish I had been with you, for I never saw an ancient larch and long very much to see one, and particularly on one account. The larches I have, some of them nearly ninety feet high, are mere infants compared with yours, for they were all planted by my father and are probably about my age, if so old. Several of them have roots above ground of a size and character that seem to belong to trees of at least twice their age, as you shall see when you come here, for come you must. Now I want to know whether you happened to notice the roots of your ancient larch, “majestic though in ruins.” I am afraid you were occupied with the human figure sitting near it, and scarcely observed them. You love a little anecdote, and I will tell you one of Sir Joshua. He mentioned to me his having once gone down the Wye from Monmouth to Chepstow. I asked him whether he was not very much struck with the inside of Tintern Abbey at the opening of the door. “I believe,” he said, “it is very striking, but I was so taken up with the groups of begging figures round the door, and their look of want and wretchedness, that I could not take my eyes from them.” The fact is, that he did not care very much about landscape of any kind in nature, and had only a high relish for it in the works of the greatest masters, particularly in the backgrounds of Titian.

‘Among other numerous longings, you have given me a very strong one for a sight of the Orsini Palace, its
noble gardens, terrace above terrace, and of the
Domenichino, so interesting a subject by such a painter. I did not stop at Modena, shame upon me, and never heard of this Ginevra; but the main part of her story I remember hearing from my mother when I was quite a child, and it made a deep and lasting impression on me. You may perhaps be curious to hear it in its simple English dress, and I believe I can tell it you very much as I had it from my mother. A number of young girls, she said, were playing at hide-and-seek in an old rambling mansion; one of them, a very lovely and beautiful girl and very eager in the sport, could never be found by her companions during the game, and after it was over was still missing. Weeks passed and still no tidings of her, when one of the family going into a lumber-room in a remote part of the house smelt a terrible stench, which seemed to come from a chest that was locked. It was burst open, when the putrid remains of the poor girl appeared, and the spring-lock told the horrible story. The same catastrophe may certainly have happened in England, and the name of the person and the place have been forgotten, but it seems more probable that the whole was taken from Ginevra, though the circumstances are altered. In any case, I was highly pleased to read my nursery story so impressively told, and with so many circumstances that give it both dignity and interest and what mine wants, “a local habitation and a name.” In mine, however, to which I have an early attachment, the play of hide-and-seek seems more naturally to account for an unfrequented part of the house, and a hiding-place being sought after, and there is something peculiarly
terrible and affecting in the idea of the discoverer, the father or mother, or perhaps the lover of the miserable victim, being led by the alarming stench to the fatal chest, and seeing, when it was forced open, the corpse of what they so loved, got green in death and festering in her tomb, and while all her loveliness was fresh in their memory. I never can think without shuddering of the moment
‘When the spring-lock that lay in ambush there
Fastened her down for ever,
of the unavailing screams and struggles, the lingering agonies, and so near those she loved, so near assistance—si forte pedem, si forte tulissent.

‘You have been equally happy in your gay and your gloomy pictures. As to the first, I have no lakes to shew you, no passage boats with peasant girls, fruits and flowers gliding by, nor trellises and corridors, vintages in their hey-day, barks sailing up and down, all pleasure, life and motion on land and water; but as to your dark tints, I have ancient yews that will match the lonely chapel of St. Bernard, or the gloomy silence of St. Bruno. Your ancient larch is probably a child to my yews, some of which must remember the Conquest, and one or two the Heptarchy. Rembrandt would delight in them and give full effect to their black massy trunks and spreading branches; but I should beg Claude’s assistance for the aerial tint of a distant mountain that I have let in, and that appears in one or two instances, under the solemn canopy. I long to shew you what relief and value they give to each other. I should have thanked
you sooner for all the pleasure you have given me, but the foul fiend Dyspepsia, who never quite leaves me, has lately been unusually harassing, and as you well know, when the stomach, Magister artis, ingeniqne largitor, is out of order, the head is good for nothing.

‘Believe me, my dear Sir,
‘Ever most truly yours,
U. Price.’

‘When will the Second Part come out? Another longing.’