LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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Letters and Journals of Lord Byron
Lord Byron to John Murray, 28 September 1820

Life of Byron: to 1806
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Life of Byron: 1810
Life of Byron: 1811
Life of Byron: 1812
Life of Byron: 1813
Life of Byron: 1814
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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
Life of Byron: 1823
Life of Byron: 1824
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“Ravenna, September 28th, 1820.

“I thought that I had told you long ago, that it never was intended nor written with any view to the stage. I have said so in the preface too. It is too long and too regular for your stage, the persons too few, and the unity too much observed. It is more like a play of Alfieri’s than of your stage (I say this humbly in speaking of that great man); but there is poetry, and it is equal to Manfred, though I know not what esteem is held of Manfred.

“I have now been nearly as long out of England as I was there during the time I saw you frequently. I came home July 14th, 1811, and left again April 25th, 1816: so that Sept. 28th, 1820, brings me within a very few months of the same duration of time of my stay and my absence. In course, I can know nothing of the public taste and feelings, but from what I glean from letters, &c. Both seem to be as bad as possible.

“I thought Anastasius excellent: did I not say so? Matthews’s Diary most excellent; it, and Forsyth, and parts of Hobhouse, are all we have of truth or sense upon Italy. The Letter to Julia very good indeed. I do not despise * * * * *; but if she knit blue-stockings instead of wearing them, it would be better. You are taken in by that false stilted trashy style, which is a mixture of all the styles of the day, which are all bombastic (I don’t except my own—no one has done more through negligence to corrupt the language); but it is neither English nor poetry. Time will show.

“I am sorry Gifford has made no further remarks beyond the first Act: does he think all the English equally sterling as he thought the first? You did right to send the proofs: I was a fool; but I do really detest the sight of proofs: it is an absurdity; but comes from laziness.

A. D. 1820. LIFE OF LORD BYRON. 347

“You can steal the two Juans into the world quietly, tagged to the others. The play as you will—the Dante too; but the Pulci I am proud of; it is superb; you have no such translation. It is the best thing I ever did in my life. I wrote the play from beginning to end, and not a single scene without interruption, and being obliged to break off in the middle; for I had my hands full, and my head, too, just then; so it can be no great shake—I mean the play; and the head too, if you like.

“P.S. Politics here still savage and uncertain. However, we are all in our ‘bandaliers’ to join the ‘Highlanders if they cross the Forth,’ i. e. to crush the Austrians if they pass the Po. The rascals!—and that dog L——l, to say their subjects are happy! If ever I come back, I’ll work some of these ministers.

“Sept. 29th.

“I open my letter to say that on reading more of the four volumes on Italy, where the author says ‘declined an introduction,’ I perceive (horresco referens) it is written by a WOMAN!!! In that case you must suppress my note and answer, and all I have said about the book and the writer. I never dreamed of it until now, in my extreme wrath at that precious note. I can only say that I am sorry that a lady should say any thing of the kind. What I would have said to one of the other sex you know already. Her book too (as a she book is not a bad one; but she evidently don’t know the Italians, or rather don’t like them, and forgets the causes of their misery and profligacy (Matthews and Forsyth are your men for truth and tact), and has gone over Italy in company—always a bad plan: you must be alone with people to know them well. Ask her, who was the ‘descendant of Lady M. W. Montague,’ and by whom? by Algarotti?

“I suspect that in Marino Faliero, you and yours won’t like the politics, which are perilous to you in these times: but recollect that it is not a political play, and that I was obliged to put into the mouths of the characters the sentiments upon which they acted. I hate all things written like Pizarro, to represent France, England, and so forth. All I
348 NOTICES OF THE A. D. 1820.
have done is meant to be purely Venetian, even to the very prophecy of its present state.

“Your Angles in general know little of the Italians, who detest them for their numbers and their Genoa treachery. Besides, the English travellers have not been composed of the best company. How could they?—out of 100,000, how many gentlemen were there, or honest men?

Mitchell’s Aristophanes is excellent. Send me the rest of it.

“These fools will force me to write a book about Italy myself, to give them ‘the loud lie.’ They prate about assassination; what is it but the origin of duelling—and ‘a wild justice,’ as Lord Bacon calls it? It is the fount of the modern point of honour in what the laws can’t or won’t reach. Every man is liable to it more or less, according to circumstances or place. For instance, I am living here exposed to it daily, for I have happened to make a powerful and unprincipled man my enemy;—and I never sleep the worse for it, or ride in less solitary places, because precaution is useless, and one thinks of it as of a disease which may or may not strike. It is true that there are those here, who, if he did, would ‘live to think on ’t;’ but that would not awake my bones: I should be sorry if it would, were they once at rest.”