LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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Letters and Journals of Lord Byron
Lord Byron to John Murray, 23 April 1820

Life of Byron: to 1806
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Life of Byron: 1811
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Life of Byron: 1814
Life of Byron: 1815
Life of Byron: 1816 (I)
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Life of Byron: 1817
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Life of Byron: 1822
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Life of Byron: 1824
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“Ravenna, April 23d, 1820.

“The proofs don’t contain the last stanzas of Canto Second, but end abruptly with the 105th stanza.

“I told you long ago that the new Cantos† were not good, and I also told you a reason. Recollect, I do not oblige you to publish them; you may suppress them, if you like, but I can alter nothing. I have erased the six stanzas about those two impostors, * * * * (which I suppose will give you great pleasure), but I can do no more. I can neither recast, nor replace; but I give you leave to put it all into the fire, if you like, or not to publish, and I think that’s sufficient.

“I told you that I wrote on with no good-will—that I had been, not frightened, but hurt by the outcry, and, besides, that when I wrote last November, I was ill in body, and in very great distress of mind about some private things of my own; but you would have it: so I sent it to you, and to make it lighter, cut it in two—but I can’t piece it

† Of Don Juan.

A. D. 1820. LIFE OF LORD BYRON. 319
together again. I can’t cobble: I must ‘either make a spoon or spoil a horn,’—and there’s an end; for there’s no remeid: but I leave you free will to suppress the whole, if you like it.

“About the Morgante Maggiore, I won’t have a line omitted. It may circulate, or it may not; but all the criticism on earth sha’n’t touch a line, unless it be because it is badly translated. Now you say, and I say, and others say, that the translation is a good one; and so it shall go to press as it is. Pulci must answer for his own irreligion: I answer for the translation only.

* * * * * *

“Pray let Mr. Hobhouse look to the Italian next time in the proofs: this time, while I am scribbling to you, they are corrected by one who passes for the prettiest woman in Romagna, and even the Marches, as far as Ancona, be the other who she may.

“I am glad you like my answer to your inquiries about Italian society. It is fit you should like something, and be d—d to you.

“My love to Scott. I shall think higher of knighthood ever after for his being dubbed. By the way, he is the first poet titled for his talent in Britain: it has happened abroad before now; but on the continent titles are universal and worthless. Why don’t you send me Ivanhoe and the Monastery? I have never written to Sir Walter, for I know he has a thousand things, and I a thousand nothings, to do; but I hope to see him at Abbotsford before very long, and I will sweat his claret for him, though Italian abstemiousness has made my brain but a shilpit concern for a Scotch sitting ‘inter pocula.’ I love Scott, and Moore, and all the better brethren; but I hate and abhor that puddle of water-worms whom you have taken into your troop.

“Yours, &c.

P.S. You say that one-half is very good: you are wrong; for, if it were, it would be the finest poem in existence. Where is the poetry of which one-half is good? is it the Æneid? is it Milton’s? is it Dryden?’s is it any one’s except Pope’s and Goldsmith’s, of which all is good? and yet these two last are the poets your pond poets would explode. But if one-half of the two new Cantos be good in your
320 NOTICES OF THE A. D. 1820.
opinion, what the devil would you have more? No—no; no poetry is generally good—only by fits and starts—and you are lucky to get a sparkle here and there. You might as well want a midnight all stars as rhyme all perfect.

“We are on the verge of a row here. Last night they have overwritten all the city walls with ‘Up with the republic!’ and ‘Death to the Pope!’ &c. &c. This would be nothing in London, where the walls are privileged. But here it is a different thing: they are not used to such fierce political inscriptions, and the police is all on the alert, and the Cardinal glares pale through all his purple.

“April 24th, 1820, 8 o’clock p. m.

“The police have been, all noon and after, searching for the inscribers, but have caught none as yet. They must have been all night about it, for the ‘Live republics—Death to Popes and Priests,’ are innumerable, and plastered over all the palaces: ours has plenty. There is ‘Down with the Nobility,’ too; they are down enough already, for that matter. A very heavy rain and wind having come on, I did not go out and ‘skirr the country;’ but I shall mount to-morrow, and take a canter among the peasantry, who are a savage, resolute race, always riding with guns in their hands. I wonder they don’t suspect the serenaders, for they play on the guitar here all night, as in Spain, to their mistresses.

“Talking of politics, as Caleb Quotem says, pray look at the conclusion of my Ode on Waterloo, written in the year 1815, and, comparing it with the Duke de Berri’s catastrophe in 1820, tell me if I have not as good a right to the character of ‘Vates,’ in both senses of the word, as Fitzgerald and Coleridge?
‘Crimson tears will follow yet—’
and have not they?

“I can’t pretend to foresee what will happen among you Englishers at this distance, but I vaticinate a row in Italy; in whilk case, I don’t know that I won’t have a finger in it. I dislike the Austrians, and
A. D. 1820. LIFE OF LORD BYRON. 321
think the Italians infamously oppressed; and if they begin, why, I will recommend ‘the erection of a sconce upon Drumanab,’ like Dugald Dalgetty.”