LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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Captain Medwin’s Account of Mr. Shelley.
Morning Chronicle  No. 17,336  (9 November 1824)
Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
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No. 17,336. LONDON, TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 9, 1824. Price Sevenpence.


What man has met another within the last few weeks, and has not asked him “Have you seen Medwin’s book?” And who will venture to answer “No?” He might as soon acknowledge the not having ready Waverley! Every one is expected to have read “Medwin’s book.” It is the general topic of conversation; one person reprobates the publication altogether, and declares he can give no credit to one who has betrayed the confidence of a friend; another thinks the thing authorized by the intense interest taken in all that relates to so extraordinary a genius, while a third blames the author, and at the same time thanks his stars that the author has merited the blame.

Medwin, Conversations of Lord Byron

One of the many persons mentioned in this volume is Mr. Murray, and he is mentioned not only unhandsomely, but ambiguously. Asterisks are introduced, after a half sentence, which serve (like a shrug of the shoulders, and an elevation of the brows, in conversation) to imply, that more is meant than can be uttered. Intended to look like mercy; nothing can be more severe.

John Murray, in The Courier

Mr. Murray has taken proper notice of this. The former question is superseded by a second, and it is now asked "Have you seen Murray’s pamphlet?" Mr. Murray has fully refuted every objection and insinuation against him, and appears to have acted not only justly, but nobly, towards Lord Byron.

The world will be sorry to see his Lordship contradict himself as he does in these two publications; but without questioning Captain Medwin’s veracity, may it not be doubted whether he has not, upon some occasions, mistaken the sense of his Lordship’s words, and thus unconsciously misrepresented them? It is not likely that conversations written from memory, should be given word for word as they were uttered. There is the more reason to suppose that Captain Medwin may not have been sufficiently circumspect, on this point, as he has certainly fallen into several errors in the short memoir he has given of Mr. Shelley in the notes. This memoir contains about ten pages, and nearly as many errors.

Medwin, Conversations of Lord Byron

Captain Medwin tells us that “his first visit to Italy was short, for he was soon called to England by his wife’s melancholy fate.” The fact is, that Mr. Shelley’s return to this country preceded the unhappy event, and had no connection with it whatever. Again, we are told that it was during his residence in Buckinghamshire, that he wrote his ‘Alastor, or the Spirit of Solitude.’" The writer of this letter had the pleasure of reading that poem in print, before the author went to Buckinghamshire.

Medwin, Conversations of Lord Byron

Captain Medwin proceeds to inform us, that Mr. Shelley wrote the “Revolt of Islam” in Italy, after his return to that country. On the contrary, this was the poem written in Buckinghamshire, and it was published before he went to Italy the second time. In giving the date of the publication of ‘Rosalind and Helen,’ he is equally incorrect.

It may be answered, that these are only errors of date, and are of no importance; but, beside that errors of date may be of incalculable importance; it may very fairly be supposed that a person, who, writing with the confidence of absolute knowledge, shews himself, in the course of a few pages, to be, in so many instances, misinformed; may have written upon too uncertain a foundation in many others.

The writer has by no means pointed out all the errors he has detected in this brief memoir, because, though he knows Capt. Medwin to be wrong, he is not sure that he could accurately correct them. He has mentioned those only, which he could correct with certainty.

There is a mistake (of no other importance than for the trouble it may occasion to inquirers for the work) in the title of one of Mr. Shelley’s novels—written at school, it should be Zastrozzi.