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Letters and Journals of Lord Byron
Lord Byron to Richard Belgrave Hoppner, 28 February 1818

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“Venice, February 28, 1818.

“Our friend, il Conte M., threw me into a cold sweat last night, by telling me of a menaced version of Manfred (in Venetian, I hope, to complete the thing) by some Italian, who had sent it to you for correction, which is the reason why I take the liberty of troubling you on the subject. If you have any means of communication with the man, would you permit me to convey to him the offer of any price he may obtain or think to obtain for his project, provided he will throw his translation into the fire, and promise not to undertake any other of that or any other of my things: I will send him his money immediately on this condition.

“As I did not write to the Italians, nor for the Italians, nor of the Italians (except in a poem not yet published, where I have said all the good I know or do not know of them, and none of the harm), I confess I wish that they would let me alone, and not drag me into their arena as one of the gladiators, in a silly contest which I neither understand nor have ever interfered with, having kept clear of all their literary parties, both here and at Milan, and elsewhere.—I came into Italy to feel the climate and be quiet, if possible. Mossi’s translation I would have

* Having ascertained that the utmost this translator could expect to make by his manuscript was 200 franca, Lord Byron offered him that sum, if he would desist from publishing. The Italian, however, held out for more; nor could he be brought to terms, till it was intimated to him pretty plainly from Lord Byron that, should the publication be persisted in, he would horsewhip him the very first time they met. Being but little inclined to suffer martyrdom in the cause, the translator accepted the 200 francs and delivered up his manuscript, entering at the same time into a written engagement never to translate any other of the noble poet’s works.

Of the qualifications of this person as a translator of English poetry, some idea may be formed from the difficulty he found himself under respecting the meaning of a line in the Incantation in Manfred,—“And the wisp on the morass,”—which he requested of Mr. Hoppner to expound to him, not having been able to find In the dictionaries to which he had access any other signification of the word “wisp” than “a bundle of straw.”

166 NOTICES OF THE A. D. 1818.
prevented if I had known it, or could have done so; and I trust that I shall yet be in time to stop this new gentleman, of whom I heard yesterday for the first time. He will only hurt himself, and do no good to his party, for in party the whole thing originates. Our modes of thinking and writing are so unutterably different, that I can conceive no greater absurdity than attempting to make any approach between the English and Italian poetry of the present day. I like the people very much, and their literature very much, but I am not the least ambitious of being the subject of their discussions literary and personal (which appear to be pretty much the same thing, as is the case in most countries); and if you can aid me in impeding this publication, you will add to much kindness already received from you by yours,

“Ever and truly,

“P.S. How is the son, and mamma? Well, I dare say.”