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Letters and Journals of Lord Byron
Lord Byron to John Murray, 4 January 1821

Life of Byron: to 1806
Life of Byron: 1806
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Life of Byron: 1808
Life of Byron: 1809
Life of Byron: 1810
Life of Byron: 1811
Life of Byron: 1812
Life of Byron: 1813
Life of Byron: 1814
Life of Byron: 1815
Life of Byron: 1816 (I)
Life of Byron: 1816 (II)
Life of Byron: 1817
Life of Byron: 1818
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, January 4th, 1821.

“I just see, by the papers of Galignani, that there is a new tragedy of great expectation, by Barry Cornwall. Of what I have read of his works, I liked the Dramatic Sketches, but thought his Sicilian story and Marcian Colonna, in rhyme, quite spoilt, by I know not what affectation of Wordsworth, and Moore, and myself,—all mixed up into a kind of chaos. I think him very likely to produce a good tragedy, if he keep to a natural style, and not play tricks to form harlequinades for an audience. As he (Barry Cornwall is not his true name) was a schoolfellow of mine, I take more than common interest in his success, and shall be glad to hear of it speedily. If I had been aware that he was in that line, I should have spoken of him in the preface to Marino Faliero. He will do a world’s wonder if he produce a great tragedy. I am, however, persuaded, that this is not to be done by following the old dramatists,—who are full of gross faults, pardoned only for the beauty of their language,—but by writing naturally and regularly, and producing regular tragedies, like the Greeks; but not in imitation,—merely the outline of their conduct, adapted to our own times and circumstances, and of course no chorus.

“You will laugh, and say, ‘Why don’t you do so?’ I have, you see, tried a sketch in Marino Faliero; but many people think my talent ‘essentially undramatic,’ and I am not at all clear that they are not right. If Marino Faliero don’t fall—in the perusal—I shall, perhaps, try again (but not for the stage); and as I think that love is not the principal passion for tragedy (and yet most of ours turn upon it), you will not
438 NOTICES OF THE A. D. 1821.
find me a popular writer. Unless it is love, furious, criminal, and hapless, it ought not to make a tragic subject. When it is melting and maudlin, it does, but it ought not to do; it is then for the gallery and second-price boxes.

“If you want to have a notion of what I am trying, take up a translation of any of the Greek tragedians. If I said the original, it would be an impudent presumption of mine; but the translations are so inferior to the originals that I think I may risk it. Then judge of the ‘simplicity of plot,’ &c. and do not judge me by your old mad dramatists, which is like drinking usquebaugh and then proving a fountain. Yet after all, I suppose that you do not mean that spirits is a nobler element than a clear spring bubbling in the sun? and this I take to be the difference between the Greeks and those turbid mountebanks—always excepting Ben Jonson, who was a scholar and a classic. Or, take up a translation of Alfieri, and try the interest, &c. of these my new attempts in the old line, by him in English; and then tell me fairly your opinion But don’t measure me by your own old or new tailors’ yards. Nothing so easy as intricate confusion of plot and rant. Mrs. Centlivre, in comedy, has ten times the bustle of Congreve; but are they to be compared? and yet she drove Congreve from the theatre.”