LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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Memoir of John Murray
Samuel Taylor Coleridge to John Murray, 31 August 1814

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.
Creative Commons License

Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
Produced by CATH
August 31st, 1814.
Dear Sir,

I have received your letter. Considering the necessary labour, and (from the questionable nature of the original work, both as to its fair claims to Fame—the diction of the good and wise according to unchanging principles—and as to its chance for Reputation, as an accidental result of local and temporary taste), the risk of character on the part of the Translator, who will assuredly have to answer for any disappointment of the reader, the terms proposed are humiliatingly low; yet such as, under modifications, I accede to. I have received testimonials from men not merely of genius according to my belief, but of the highest accredited reputation, that my translation of ‘Wallenstein’ was in language and in metre superior to the original, and the parts most admired were substitutions of my own, on a principle of compensation. Yet the whole work went for waste-paper. I was abused—nay, my own remarks in the Preface were transferred to a Review, as the Reviewer’s sentiments against me, without even a hint that he had copied them from my own Preface. Such was the fate of ‘Wallenstein’! And yet I dare appeal to any number of men of Genius—say, for instance, Mr. Walter Scott, Mr. Southey, Mr. Wordsworth, Mr. Wilson, Mr. Sotheby, Sir G. Beaumont, &c., whether the ‘Wallenstein’ with all its defects (and it has grievous defects), is not worth all Schiller’s other plays put together. But I wonder not. It
was too good, and not good enough; and the advice of the
younger Pliny: ‘Aim at pleasing either all, or the few,’ is as prudentially good as it is philosophically accurate. I wrote to Mr. Longman before the work was published, and foretold its fate, even to a detailed accuracy, and advised him to put up with the loss from the purchase of the MSS. and of the Translation, as a much less evil than the publication. I went so far as to declare that its success was, in the state of public Taste, impossible; that the enthusiastic admirers of ‘The Robbers,’ ‘Cabal and Love,’ &c., would lay the blame on me; and that he himself would suspect that if he had only let on another Translator than, &c. Everything took place as I had foretold, even his own feelings—so little do Prophets gain from the fulfilment of their Prophecies!

On the other hand, though I know that executed as alone I can or dare do it—that is, to the utmost of my power (for which the intolerable Pain, nay the far greater Toil and Effort of doing otherwise, is a far safer Pledge than any solicitude on my part concerning the approbation of the Public), the translation of so very difficult a work as the ‘Faustus,’ will be most inadequately remunerated by the terms you propose; yet they very probably are the highest it may be worth your while to offer to me. I say this as a philosopher; for, though I have now been much talked of, and written of, for evil and not for good, but for suspected capability, yet none of my works have ever sold. The ‘Wallenstein’ went to the waste-basket. The ‘Remorse,’ though acted twenty times, rests quietly on the shelves in the second edition, with copies enough for seven years’ consumption, or seven times seven. I lost £200 by the non-payment, from forgetfulness, and under various pretences, by ‘The Friend’;* and for my poems I did get from £10 to £15. And yet, forsooth, the Quarterly Review attacks me for neglecting and misusing my powers! I do not quarrel with the Public—all is as it must be—but surely the Public (if there be such a thing) has no right to

* Twenty-seven numbers of The Friend were published by Coleridge at Penrith in Cumberland in 1809-10, but the periodical proved a failure, principally from the irregularity of its appearance. It was about this time that he was addicted to opium-eating.

quarrel with me for not getting more, for I fail by publishing what they will not read!

The ‘Faust,’ you perhaps know, is only a Fragment. Whether Goethe ever will finish it, or whether it is ever his object to do so, is quite unknown. A large proportion of the work cannot be rendered in blank verse, but must be given in wild lyrical metres; and Mr. Lamb informs me that the Baroness de Staël has given a very unfavourable account of the work. Still, however, I will undertake it, and that instantly, so as to let you have the last sheet by the middle of November, on the following terms:—

I. That on the delivery of the last MS. sheet you remit 100 guineas to Mrs. Coleridge, or Mr. Robert Southey, at a bill of five weeks. 2. That I, or my widow or family, may, any time after two years from the first publication, have the privilege of reprinting it in any collection of all my poetical writings, or of my works in general, which set off with a Life of me, might perhaps be made profitable to my widow. And 3rd, that if (as I long ago meditated) I should re-model the whole, give it a finale, and be able to bring it, thus re-written and re-cast, on the stage, it shall not be considered as a breach of the engagement between us, I on my part promising that you shall, for an equitable consideration, have the copy of this new work, either as a separate work, or forming a part of the same volume or book, as circumstances may dictate to you. When I say that I am confident that in this possible and not probable case, I should not repeat or retain one fifth of the original, you will perceive that I consult only my dread of appearing to act amiss, as it would be even more easy to compose the whole anew.

If these terms suit you I will commence the Task as soon as I receive Goethe’s works from you. If you could procure Goethe’s late Life of himself, which extends to a short way, or any German biographical work, it would enable me to render the preliminary Essay more entertaining.

Most respectfully yours, dear Sir,
S. T. Coleridge.