LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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Letters and Journals of Lord Byron
Lord Byron to John Murray, 8 May 1820

Life of Byron: to 1806
Life of Byron: 1806
Life of Byron: 1807
Life of Byron: 1808
Life of Byron: 1809
Life of Byron: 1810
Life of Byron: 1811
Life of Byron: 1812
Life of Byron: 1813
Life of Byron: 1814
Life of Byron: 1815
Life of Byron: 1816 (I)
Life of Byron: 1816 (II)
Life of Byron: 1817
Life of Byron: 1818
Life of Byron: 1819
Life of Byron: 1820
Life of Byron: 1821
Life of Byron: 1822
Life of Byron: 1823
Life of Byron: 1824
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Ravenna, May 8th, 1820.

“From your not having written again, an intention which your letter of the 7th ultimo indicated, I have to presume that the ‘Prophecy of Dante’ has not been found more worthy than its predecessors in the eyes of your illustrious synod. In that case, you will be in some perplexity; to end which, I repeat to you, that you are not to consider yourself as bound or pledged to publish any thing because it is mine, but always to act according to your own views, or opinions, or those of your friends; and to be sure that you will in no degree offend me by ‘declining the article,’ to use a technical phrase. The prose observations on John Wilson’s attack, I do not intend for publication at this time; and I send a copy of verses to Mr. Kinnaird (they were written last year on crossing the Po) which must not be published either. I mention this, because it is probable he may give you a copy. Pray recollect this, as they are mere verses of society, and written upon private feelings and passions. And, moreover, I can’t consent to any mutilations or omissions of Pulci: the original has been ever free from such in Italy, the capital of Christianity, and the translation may be so in England; though you will think it strange that they should have allowed such freedom for many centuries to the Morgante, while the other day they confiscated the whole translation of the Fourth Canto of Childe Harold, and have persecuted Leoni, the translator—so he writes me, and so I could have told him, had he consulted me before his publication. This shows how much more politics interest men in these parts than religion. Half a dozen invectives against tyranny confiscate Childe Harold in a month; and eight and twenty cantos of quizzing monks and knights, and church government, are let loose for centuries. I copy Leoni’s account.

“‘Non ignorerà forse che la mia versione del 4° Canto del Childe
322 NOTICES OF THE A. D. 1820.
Harold fu confiscata in ogni parte: ed io stesso ho dovuto soffrir vessazioni altrettanto ridicole quanto illiberali, ad arte che alcuni versi fossero esclusi dalla censura. Ma siccome il divieto non fa d’ordinario che accrescere la curiosità cosi quel carme sull’ Italia è ricercato più che mai, e penso di farlo ristampare in Inghilterra senza nulla escludere. Sciagurata condizione di questa mia patria! se patria si può chiamare una terra così avvilita dalla fortuna, dagli uomini, da se medesima.’

Rose will translate this to you. Has he had his letter? I enclosed it to you months ago.

“This intended piece of publication I shall dissuade him from, or he may chance to see the inside of St. Angelo’s. The last sentence of his letter is the common and pathetic sentiment of all his countrymen.

Sir Humphry Davy was here last fortnight, and I was in his company in the house of a very pretty Italian lady of rank, who, by way of displaying her learning in presence of the great chemist, then describing his fourteenth ascension of Mount Vesuvius, asked ‘if there was not a similar volcano in Ireland?‘ My only notion of an Irish volcano consisted of the lake of Killarney, which I naturally conceived her to mean; but on second thoughts I divined, that she alluded to Iceland and to Hecla—and so it proved, though she sustained her volcanic topography for some time with all the amiable pertinacity of ‘the feminie.’ She soon after turned to me and asked me various questions about Sir Humphry’s philosophy, and I explained as well as an oracle his skill in gasen safety lamps, and ungluing the Pompeian MSS. ‘But what do you call him?’ said she. ‘A great chemist,’ quoth I. ‘What can he do?’ repeated the lady. ‘Almost any thing,’ said I. ‘Oh, then, mio caro, do pray beg him to give me something to dye my eyebrows black. I have tried a thousand things, and the colours all come off; and besides, they don’t grow: can’t he invent something to make them grow?’ All this with the greatest earnestness; and what you will be surprised at, she is neither ignorant nor a fool, but really well educated and clever. But they speak like children, when first out of their convents; and, after all, this is better than an English blue-stocking.

“I did not tell Sir Humphry of this last piece of philosophy, not
A. D. 1820. LIFE OF LORD BYRON. 323
knowing how he might take it. Davy was much taken with Ravenna, and the primitive Italianism of the people, who are unused to foreigners: but he only staid a day.

“Send me Scott’s novels and some news.

“P.S. I have begun and advanced into the second act of a tragedy on the subject of the Doge’s conspiracy (i. e. the story of Marino Faliero); but my present feeling is so little encouraging on such matters that I begin to think I have mined my talent out, and proceed in no great phantasy of finding a new vein.

“P.S. I sometimes think (if the Italians don’t rise) of coming over to England in the autumn after the coronation (at which I would not appear, on account of my family schism), but as yet I can decide nothing. The place must be a great deal changed since I left it, now more than four years ago.”