LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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Letters and Journals of Lord Byron
Lord Byron to John Murray, 25 March 1817

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)
Life of Byron: 1816 (II)
Life of Byron: 1817
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Life of Byron: 1819
Life of Byron: 1820
Life of Byron: 1821
Life of Byron: 1822
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Life of Byron: 1824
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“Venice, March 25th, 1817.

“Your letter and inclosure are safe; but ‘English gentlemen’ are very rare—at least in Venice. I doubt whether there are at present any, save the consul and vice-consul, with neither of whom I have the slightest acquaintance. The moment I can pounce upon a witness, I will send the deed properly signed: but must he necessarily be genteel? Venice is not a place where the English are gregarious; their pigeon-houses are Florence, Naples, Rome, &c.; and to tell you the truth, this was one reason why I staid here till the season of the purgation of Rome from these people, which is infected with them at this time, should arrive. Besides, I abhor the nation and the nation me; it is impossible for me to describe my own sensation on that point, but it may suffice to say, that, if I met with any of the race in the beautiful parts of Switzerland, the most distant glimpse or aspect of them poisoned the whole scene, and I do not choose to have the Pantheon, and St. Peter’s, and the Capitol, spoiled for me too. This feeling may be probably owing to recent events; but it does not exist the less, and while it exists, I shall conceal it as little as any other.

“I have been seriously ill with a fever, but it is gone. I believe or suppose it was the indigenous fever of the place, which comes every year at this time, and of which the physicians change the name annually, to despatch the people sooner. It is a kind of typhus, and kills occasionally. It was pretty smart, but nothing particular, and has left me some debility
90 NOTICES OF THE A. D. 1817.
and a great appetite. There are a good many ill at present, I suppose, of the same.

“I feel sorry for Horner, if there was any thing in the world to make him like it; and still more sorry for his friends, as there was much to make them regret him. I had not heard of his death till by your letter.

“Some weeks ago I wrote to you my acknowledgments of Walter Scott’s article. Now I know it to be his, it cannot add to my good opinion of him, but it adds to that of myself. He, and Gifford, and Moore, are the only regulars I ever knew who had nothing of the garrison about their manner: no nonsense, nor affectations, look you! As for the rest whom I have known, there was always more or less of the author about them—the pen peeping from behind the ear, and the thumbs a little inky, or so.

“‘Lalla Rookh’—you must recollect that, in the way of title, the ‘Giaour’ has never been pronounced to this day; and both it and Childe Harold sounded very facetious to the blue-bottles of wit and humour about town, till they were taught and startled into a proper deportment; and therefore Lalla Rookh, which is very orthodox and oriental, is as good a title as need be, if not better. I could wish rather that he had not called it ‘a Persian Tale;’ firstly, because we have had Turkish Tales, and Hindoo Tales, and Assyrian Tales, already; and tale is a word of which it repents me to have nicknamed poesy. ‘Fable’ would be better; and, secondly, ‘Persian Tale’ reminds one of the lines of Pope on Ambrose Phillips; though no one can say, to be sure, that this tale has been ‘turned for half-a-crown;’ still it is as well to avoid such clashings. ‘Persian Story’—why not?—or Romance? I feel as anxious for Moore as I could do for myself, for the soul of me, and I would not have him succeed otherwise than splendidly, which I trust he will do.

“With regard to the ‘Witch Drama,’ I sent all the three acts by post, week after week, within this last month. I repeat that I have not an idea if it is good or bad. If bad, it must, on no account, be risked in publication; if good, it is at your service. I value it at three hundred guineas, or less, If you like it. Perhaps, if published, the best way will be to add it to your winter volume, and not publish separately. The
A. D. 1817. LIFE OF LORD BYRON. 91
price will show you I don’t pique myself upon it; so speak out. You may put it in the fire, if you like, and
Gifford don’t like.

“The Armenian Grammar is published—that is, one; the other is still in MS.. My illness has prevented me from moving this month past, and I have done nothing more with the Armenian.

“Of Italian or rather Lombard manners, I could tell you little or nothing: I went two or three times to the governor’s conversazione (and if you go once, you are free to go always), at which, as I only saw very plain women, a formal circle, in short a worst sort of rout, I did not go again. I went to Academie and to Madame Albrizzi’s, where I saw pretty much the same thing, with the addition of some literati, who are the same blue*, by ——, all the world over. I fell in love the first week with Madame * *, and I have continued so ever since, because she is very pretty and pleasing, and. talks Venetian, which amuses me, and is naïve.

“Very truly, &c.

“P.S. Pray send the red tooth-powder by a safe hand, and speedily.

* * * * * * †
To hook the reader, you, John Murray,
Have publish’d ‘Anjou’s Margaret,’
Which won’t be sold off in a hurry
(At least, it has not been as yet);
And then, still further to bewilder ’em,
Without remorse you set up ‘Ilderim;’
So mind you don’t get into debt,
Because as how, if you should fail,
These books would be but baddish bail.

* Whenever a word or passage occurs (as in this instance) which Lord Byron would have pronounced emphatically in speaking, it appears, in his handwriting, as if written with something of the some vehemence.

† Here follow the same rhymes (“I read the Christabel,” &c.) which have already been given in one of his letters to myself.

92 NOTICES OF THE A. D. 1817.
“And mind you do not let escape
These rhymes to Morning Post or Perry,
Which would be very treacherous—very,
And get me into such a scrape!
For, firstly, I should have to sally,
All in my little boat, against a Galley;
And, should I chance to slay the Assyrian wight,
Have next to combat with the female knight.
* * * * * *

“You may show these matters to Moore and the select, but not to the profane; and tell Moore, that I wonder he don’t write to one now and then.”