LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

Memoir of John Murray
Thomas Campbell to John Murray, 28 January 1809

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
January 28th, 1809.

I am inclined to believe that the more popular form of the ‘Elegant Extracts’ is the best adapted for our work. It is surely a fair competition in which we shall start, with that ill-constructed but as I understand very saleable compilation. With respect to the form of the work, however, I feel myself an incompetent adviser. I am confident enough in my power to make the merit of the book independent of its form. Its title I should call ‘The Selected Beauties of British Poetry, with lives of the Poets and Critical Dissertations. By T. C.,’ &c. This titlepage, however, may be arranged at our leisure. I begin with Chaucer, and continue through the whole succession of English Poets to the last of our own day. Many lives, and of course criticisms annexed to these lives, will be included which are not found in any preceding collection. Many anonymous Poems must also be inserted, with merely a notice of the name to which they are attributed, upon grounds too uncertain to admit of a Biography.
Already I have done much in bringing together a number of excellent little poems which have been but partially noticed—known only to amateurs, and transcribed in their commonplace books, but most of them rarely, and some of them never, introduced into collections of Poetry. The bulk of these need not alarm you for the space they will occupy, as it is the common quality of excellence not to be bulky; but though these little stars of poetical excellence may be individually small, I hope they will form a brilliant constellation.

My Biographies I mean to be short, but I dare say you will remember that shortness is not always incompatible with being satisfactory. By short I don’t mean scanty. Where the merit of the Poet is not very interesting, I will endeavour to make his biography more interesting. Extreme accuracy I trust I shall always attain—indeed, with the prospect of such aid as you are so kind as to promise me, I need not fear falling into errors with the industry I propose to exert. At the same time I do not promise you a book of antiquarian dissertation. I mean to exert the main part of my strength on the merits and writings of each Poet as an Author, not on discoveries of little anecdotes, and of his residence and conversation as a man, unless such things are striking, and can be obtained without sacrificing the great object of my efforts, viz. to make a complete body of English Poetical Criticism. The Poets are all to be reviewed in their chronological succession, but both in my preface and in my biographies I mean to class the minor poets in the different orders of their general merit and particular characteristics. To the great Poets, such as Chaucer, Spenser, Milton, Dryden, Pope and Thomson, I devote a separate and elaborate disquisition, treating them as they deserve, like great writers, having nothing in common but their greatness.

I mean to devote a year exclusively to this effort. It is not my part to say any more than I have said (I hope it will not appear immodestly) on my own competency to the task. I shall only add that I have written a good deal on the subject matter of it, and read and thought a great deal more. Independent of my duty as a fair dealer, which I trust would always deter me from performing a task in a slovenly manner, where the capital of an
employer is risked and employed, I have every motive that can stimulate to industry, and that can make me anxious without being intimidated about the public opinion. With great respect and regard, believe me, dear

Your sincere friend,
T. Campbell.