LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

Lord Byron and Some of his Contemporaries
Percy Bysshe Shelley to Leigh Hunt, 26 August 1821

Lord Byron.
Mr. Moore.
Mr. Shelley. With a Criticism on his Genius.
Mr. Keats. With a Criticism on his Writings.
Mr. Dubois. Mr. Campbell. Mr. Theodore Hook. Mr. Mathews. Messrs. James & Horace Smith.
Mr. Fuseli. Mr. Bonnycastle. Mr. Kinnaird.
Mr. Charles Lamb.
Mr. Coleridge.
Recollections of the Author’s Life.
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“It is for slaves to lie, and for freemen to speak truth.

“In the examples, which I here bring in, of what I have heard, read, done, or said, I have forbid myself to dare to alter even the most light and indifferent circumstances. My conscience does not falsify one tittle. What my ignorance may do, I cannot say.”       Montaigne.

Pisa, August 26th, 1821.

Since I last wrote to you, I have been on a visit to Lord Byron at Ravenna. The result of this visit was a determination on his part to come and live at Pisa, and I have taken the finest palace on the Lung’Arno for him. But the material part of my visit consists in a message which he desires me to give you, and which I think ought to add to your determination—for such a one I hope you have formed—of restoring your shattered health and spirits by a migration to these “regions mild of calm and serene air.”

He proposes that you should come and go shares with him and me, in a periodical work, to be conducted here; in which each of the contracting parties should publish all their original compositions, and share the profits. He proposed it to Moore, but for some reason it was never brought to bear. There can be no doubt that the profits of any scheme in which you and Lord Byron engage, must, from various yet co-operating reasons, be very great. As to myself, I am, for the present, only a sort of link between you and him, until you can know each other and effectuate the arrangement; since (to entrust you with a secret which, for your sake, I withhold from Lord Byron,) nothing would induce me to share in the profits, and still less in the borrowed splendour, of such a partnership.* You and he, in different manners, would be equal, and would bring, in a different manner, but in the same proportion, equal stocks of reputation and success: do not let my frankness with you, nor

* Mr. Shelley afterwards altered his mind; but he had a reserved intention underneath it, which he would have endeavoured to put in practice, had his friend allowed him.

my belief that you deserve it more than Lord Byron, have the effect of deterring you from assuming a station in modern literature, which the universal voice of my contemporaries forbids me either to stoop or aspire to. I am, and I desire to be, nothing.

I did not ask Lord Byron to assist me in sending a remittance for your journey; because there are men, however excellent, from whom we would never receive an obligation, in the worldly sense of the word; and I am as jealous for my friend as for myself. I, as you know, have it not: but I suppose that at last I shall make up an impudent face, and ask Horace Smith to add to the many obligations he has conferred on me. I know I need only ask.

I think I have never told you how very much I like your Amyntas; it almost reconciles me to Translations. In another sense I still demur. You might have written another such poem as the “Nymphs,” with no great access of effort.* I am full of thoughts and plans, and should do something if the feeble and irritable frame which incloses it was willing to obey the spirit. I fancy that then I should do great things. Before this you will have seen “Adonais.” Lord Byron, I suppose from

* In one of Lord Byron’s letters, having a quarrel with the memory of Mr. Shelley, and being angry with me for loving it so entirely, his Lordship tells me that I was mistaken if I thought Mr. Shelley entertained a very high opinion of my poetry. I answered, that I had already had the mortification of making that discovery; upon which he expressed his vexation at having told it me. I did not add, that I believed Mr. Shelley’s opinion of my poetry to have decreased since his becoming used to his Lordship’s libels of his “friends all round,” and that he had latterly exhibited an uneasy suspicion that his intimacy had had an ill effect upon his kindlier views of things in general. But I must own, that I never looked upon Mr. Shelley’s real opinion of my poetry as any thing very great; though his affection for me, and his sympathy with the world I lived in, poetical as well as political, sometimes led him to persuade himself otherwise. I suspect he had a very accurate notion of it; greater than what vulgar critics would think just, but as little as a due appreciation of poetry, properly so called, could admit.

modesty on account of his being mentioned in it, did not say a word of “
Adonais,” though he was loud in his praise of “Prometheus:” and, what you will not agree with him in, censure of the “Cenci.” Certainly, if “Marino Faliero” is a drama, the “Cenci” is not: but that between ourselves. Lord Byron is reformed, as far as gallantry goes, and lives with a beautiful and sentimental Italian lady, who is as much attached to him as may be. I trust greatly to his intercourse with you, for his creed to become as pure as he thinks his conduct is. He has many generous and exalted qualities, but the canker of aristocracy wants to be cut out.

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