LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

Letters and Journals of Lord Byron
Lord Byron to John Murray, [13?] March 1821

Life of Byron: to 1806
Life of Byron: 1806
Life of Byron: 1807
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
Creative Commons License

Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
Produced by CATH
“Ravenna, Marzo, 1821.

“In my packet of the 12th instant, in the last sheet (not the half sheet), last page, omit the sentence which (defining, or attempting to define, what and who are gentlemen) begins ‘I should say at least in life that most military men have it, and few naval; that several men of rank have it, and few lawyers,’ &c. &c. I say, omit the whole of that sentence, because, like the ‘cosmogony, or creation of the world,’ in the ‘Vicar of Wakefield,’ it is not much to the purpose.

“In the sentence above, too, almost at the top of the same page, after the words ‘that there ever was, or can be, an aristocracy of poets,’ add and insert these words—‘I do not mean that they should write in the style of the song by a person of quality, or parle euphuism; but there is a nobility of thought and expression to be found no less in Shakspeare, Pope, and Burns, than in Dante, Alfieri,’ &c. &c. and so on. Or, if you please, perhaps you had better omit the whole of the latter digression on the vulgar poets, and insert only as far as the end of the sentence on Pope’s Homer, where I prefer it to Cowper’s, and quote Dr. Clarke in favour of its accuracy.

“Upon all these points, take an opinion; take the sense (or nonsense) of your learned visitants, and act thereby. I am very tractable—in prose.

“Whether I have made out the case for Pope, I know not; but I am very sure that I have been zealous in the attempt. If it comes to the proofs, we shall beat the blackguards. I will show more imagery in twenty lines of Pope than in any equal length of quotation in English poesy, and that in places where they least expect it. For instance, in his lines on Sporus,—now, do just read them over—the subject is of no consequence (whether it be satire or epic)—we are talking of poetry and imagery from nature and art. Now, mark the images separately and arithmetically:—

A. D. 1821. LIFE OF LORD BYRON. 455
1.   The thing of silk.
2.   Curd of ass’s milk.
3.   The butterfly.
4.   The wheel.
5.   Bug with gilded wings.
6.   Painted child of dirt.
7.   Whose buzz.
8.   Well-bred spaniels.
9.   Shallow streams run dimpling.
10.  Florid impotence.
11.  Prompter.   Puppet squeaks.
12.  The ear of Eve.
13.  Familiar toad.
14.  Half froth, half venom, spits himself abroad.
15.  Fop at the toilet.
16.  Flatterer at the board.
17.  Amphibious thing.
18.  Now trips a lady.
19.  Now struts a lord.
20.  A cherub’s face.
21.  A reptile all the rest.
22.  The Rabbins.
23.  Pride that licks the dust
‘Beauty that shocks you, parts that none will trust,
Wit that can creep, and pride that licks the dust.

“Now, is there a line of all the passage without the most forcible imagery (for his purpose)? Look at the variety—at the poetry of the passage—at the imagination: there is hardly a line from which a painting might not be made, and is. But this is nothing in comparison with his higher passages in the Essay on Man, and many of his other poems, serious and comic. There never was such an unjust outcry in this world as that which these fellows are trying against Pope.

“Ask Mr. Gifford if, in the fifth act of ‘the Doge’ you could not contrive (where the sentence of the Veil is passed) to insert the following lines in Marino Faliero’s answer?

“But let it be so. It will be in vain:
The veil which blackens o’er this blighted name,
456 NOTICES OF THE A. D. 1821.
And hides, or seems to hide, these lineaments,
Shall draw more gazers than the thousand portraits
Which glitter round it in their painted trappings,
Your delegated slaves—the people’s tyrants*.
“Yours truly, &c.

“P.S. Upon public matters here I say little: you will all hear soon enough of a general row throughout Italy. There never was a more foolish step than the expedition to Naples by these fellows.

“I wish to propose to Holmes, the miniature painter, to come out to me this spring. I will pay his expenses, and any sum in reason. I wish him to take my daughter’s picture (who is in a convent) and the Countess G.’s, and the head of a peasant girl, which latter would make a study for Raphael. It is a complete peasant face, but an Italian peasant’s, and quite in the Raphael Fornarina style. Her figure is tall, but rather large, and not at all comparable to her face, which is really superb. She is not seventeen, and I am anxious to have her face while it lasts. Madame G. is also very handsome, but it is quite in a different style—completely blonde and fair—very uncommon in Italy; yet not an English fairness, but more like a Swede or a Norwegian. Her figure, too, particularly the bust, is uncommonly good. It must be Holmes: I like him because be takes such inveterate likenesses. There is a war here; but a solitary traveller, with little baggage, and nothing to do with politics, has nothing to fear. Pack him up in the Diligence. Don’t forget.”