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Letters and Journals of Lord Byron
Lord Byron to Sir Walter Scott, 12 January 1822

Life of Byron: to 1806
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“Pisa, January 12th, 1822.

“I need not say how grateful I am for your letter, but I must own my ingratitude in not having written to you again long ago. Since I left England (and it is not for all the usual term of transportation) I have scribbled to five hundred blockheads on business, &c. without difficulty, though with no great pleasure; and yet, with the notion of addressing you a hundred times in my head, and always in my heart, I have not done what I ought to have done. I can only account for it on the same principle of tremulous anxiety with which one sometimes makes love to a beautiful woman of our own degree, with whom one is enamoured in good earnest; whereas, we attack a fresh-coloured housemaid without (I speak, of course, of earlier times) any sentimental remorse or mitigation of our virtuous purpose.

“I owe to you far more than the usual obligation for the courtesies of literature and common friendship, for you went out of your way in 1817 to do me a service, when it required not merely kindness, but courage to do so; to have been recorded by you in such a manner would have been a proud memorial at any time, but at such a time, when ‘All the world and his wife,’ as the proverb goes, were trying to trample upon me was something still higher to my self-esteem,—I allude to the Quarterly Review of the Third Canto of Childe Harold, which Murray told me was written by you,—and, indeed, I should have known it without his information, as there could not be two who could and would have done this at the time. Had it been a common criticism, however eloquent or panegyrical, I should have felt pleased, undoubtedly, and grateful, but
570 NOTICES OF THE A. D. 1822.
not to the extent which the extraordinary good-heartedness of the whole proceeding must induce in any mind capable of such sensations. The very tardiness of this acknowledgment will, at least, show that I have not forgotten the obligation; and I can assure you that my sense of it has been out at compound interest during the delay. I shall only add one word upon the subject, which is, that I think that you, and
Jeffrey, and Leigh Hunt were the only literary men, of numbers whom I know (and some of whom I had served), who dared venture even an anonymous word in my favour just then; and that, of those three, I had never seen one at all—of the second much less than I desired—and that the third was under no kind of obligation to me whatever; while the other two had been actually attacked by me on a former occasion; one, indeed, with some provocation, but the other wantonly enough. So you see you have been heaping ‘coals of fire, &c.’ in the true gospel manner, and I can assure you that they have burnt down to my very heart.

“I am glad that you accepted the Inscription. I meant to have inscribed ‘the Foscarini’ to you instead; but first, I heard that ‘Cain’ was thought the least bad of the two as a composition; and, 2dly, I have abused S * * like a pickpocket, in a note to the Foscarini, and I recollected that he is a friend of yours (though not of mine), and that it would not be the handsome thing to dedicate to one friend any thing containing such matters about another. However, I’ll work the Laureate before I have done with him, as soon as I can muster Billingsgate therefor. I like a row, and always did from a boy, in the course of which propensity, I must needs say, that I have found it the most easy of all to be gratified, personally and poetically. You disclaim ‘jealousies;’ but I would ask, as Boswell did of Johnson, of whom could you be jealous,’—of none of the living, certainly, and (taking all and all into consideration) of which of the dead? I don’t like to bore you about the Scotch novels (as they call them, though two of them are wholly English, and the rest half so), but nothing can or could ever persuade me, since I was the first ten minutes in your company, that you are not the man. To me those novels have so much of ‘Auld lang syne’ (I was bred a canny Scot till ten years old) that I never move without them; and when I removed from Ravenna to Pisa the other day, and sent on
A. D. 1822. LIFE OF LORD BYRON. 571
my library before, they were the only books that I kept by me, although I already have them by heart.

“January 27th, 1822.

“I delayed till now concluding, in the hope that I should have got ‘the Pirate,’ who is under way for me, but has not yet hove in sight. I hear that your daughter is married, and I suppose by this time you are half a grandfather—a young one, by the way. I have heard great things of Mrs. Lockhart’s personal and mental charms, and much good of her lord: that you may live to see as many novel Scotts as there are Scots’ novels, is the very bad pun, but sincere wish of

“Yours ever most affectionately, &c.

“P.S. Why don’t you take a turn in Italy? You would find yourself as well known and as welcome as in the Highlands among the natives. As for the English, you would be with them as in London; and I need not add, that I should be delighted to see you again, which is far more than I shall ever feel or say for England, or (with a few exceptions ‘of kith, kin, and allies’) any thing that it contains. But my ‘heart warms to the tartan,’ or to any thing of Scotland, which reminds me of Aberdeen and other parts, not so far from the Highlands as that town, about Invercauld and Braemar, where I was sent to drink goat’s fey in 1795-6, in consequence of a threatened decline after the scarlet fever. But I am gossiping, so, good night—and the gods be with your dreams!

“Pray, present my respects to Lady Scott, who may perhaps recollect having seen me in town in 1815.

“I see that one of your supporters (for, like Sir Hildebrand, I am fond of Guillin) is a mermaid; it is my crest too, and with precisely the same curl of tail. There’s concatenation for you!—I am building a little cutter at Genoa, to go a cruising in the summer. I know you like the sea too.”