LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

Memoir of John Murray
John Cam Hobhouse to John Murray, 7 December 1817

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.
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Produced by CATH
Venice, December 7th, 1817.

As I find you have been good enough to remember me in sundry letters to these parts of the world, and as it may be possible that my repeated acknowledgments may have been, in the press of matter, put off, like Dr. Drowsy’s sermons, to a better opportunity, I have discovered at last an excuse for writing to you, without having anything to tell which can interest you, or to be of any other service than the disburdening of my conscience by duly registering the above thanks for your attentions. I verily believe
this place to be the dullest in Christendom, and yet, from congenial qualities perhaps, I have been here and about here since last August. The Italian is at no time the gayest of his species or the most approachable, and although the Venetians, time out of mind, have been the fondest of strangers of any of their fellow Cis-alpines, yet their present disasters and the weight of German depression (for it is not oppression) have made them as little inviting in all senses of the word as can easily be imagined. I should not presume to say this much if I did more than copy their own confessions. As for the Austrians, they are amiable nowhere but at Vienna. Their inaptitude for these latitudes is beyond all expression or belief. Doubtless Lord B. told you of the order of the Aulic Council for the Archbishop of Aquileia to go to St. Mark’s in a coach and six; as if the Lord Mayor were ordered to go to St. James’s Palace in a gondola. The other day they sank a considerable sum in sinking for a well in one of the artificial islands here. ’Twas in vain that the Venetians assured them that springs never had been, were, or would be found in soil made out of basketfuls of earth thrown upon stakes and pebbles. They delved and dived, and were not to be persuaded by the salt water spirting in their faces at every blow. I don’t know that they have abandoned their researches even now. They bought the great Cornaro palace here the other year for 100,000 francs—about one-tenth of the value—the architecture of
Sansovino, and one of the chief ornaments of the Great Canal. They put a German commissioner and a German stove into their new purchase, and between one and the other burnt it down.

If any one writes a book of travels without telling the truth about the masters and the subjects in this most unfortunate country, he deserves more than damnation and a dull sale, and I trust you will take care he has a niche—forgive the word—in your temple of infamy, the Quarterly. I heard that Champion Scott* was collecting five hundred pounds worth of news for Longman in these parts. If

* This was John Scott, author of ‘Sketches of Manners, Scenery, &c, in the French Provinces, Switzerland, and Italy,’ afterwards killed in a duel in consequence of a quarrel arising out of some articles in Blackwood’s Magazine.

any but a gentleman and a scholar, and an accomplished man in every way, presumes to hazard such an undertaking, “be ready,”
Mr. Murray, “with all your thunderbolts: dash him to pieces!”

I saw this the moment I crossed the Alps, and, in spite of bad and inveterate habit, shut my journal at once. There is a wide field of glory open for any and for all answering the above description; but it would perhaps be almost impossible to find the requisite variety of acquirement and talent in one individual. The work should be done, like a cyclopede dictionary, by departments. I don’t mean North and South, East and West, though that is no bad plan, but by subjects—literature, antiquities, manners, politics, &c. We have nothing, really nothing, except Mr. Forsyth’s sketch, which, so far as it goes, is a most extraordinary performance. I have tried it by the best test—that is, by putting it into the hands of one or two Italians, who owned, with a sigh, indeed, the unhappy resemblance.

A word or two on my own movements, because they interest you. I shall set out with your ‘Childe’ in about three weeks, from Venice, and shall proceed as fast as bad roads and surly postillions will allow, to Milan, Turin. Lyons, Paris, Calais, according to the post book, to London.

Your new acquisition is a very fine finish to the three cantos already published, and, if I may trust to a taste vitiated—I say it without affectation—by an exclusive attention and attachment to that school of ancient and obsolete poetry of which your friend Mr. Gifford furnished us with the last specimen in his ‘Baviad,” it is the best of all his lordship’s productions. The world will not, to be sure, find that freshness and novelty which is to be discovered only at the opening of a mine. The metal, whatever may be its quantity or quality, must in some degree cease to surprise and delight as it continues to be worked, and nothing more can be hoped than that it should not become less valuable by being more plentiful. In spite of similes, however, it is possible that all other readers may agree with my simple self in liking this fourth canto better than anything Lord B. has ever written. I must confess I feel an affection for it more than ordinary, as part of it was begot, as it were, under my own eyes; for some of the stanzas owe their birth to our morning
walk or evening ride at La Mara. I shall conclude with telling you about Lord B.’s bust. It is a masterpiece by
Thorwaldsen* who is thought by most judges to surpass Canova in this branch of sculpture. The likeness is perfect: the artist worked con amore, and told me it was the finest head he had ever under his hand. I would have had a wreath round the brows, but the poet was afraid of being mistaken for a king or a conqueror, and his pride or modesty made him forbid the band. However, when the marble comes to England I shall place a golden laurel round it in the ancient style, and, if it is thought good enough, suffix the following inscription, which may serve at least to tell the name of the portrait and allude to the excellence of the artist, which very few lapidary inscriptions do:—
“In vain would flattery steal a wreath from fame,
And Rome’s best sculptor only half succeed,
If England owned no share in Byron’s name
Nor hailed the laurel she before decreed.”
Of course you are very welcome to a copy—I don’t mean of the verses, but of the bust. But, with the exception of
Mr. Kinnaird, who has applied, and Mr. Davies, who may apply, no other will be granted. Farewell, dear Sir.

Ever yours truly obliged,
John C. Hobhouse.