1813 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Gifford

Lord Byron to William Gifford, 18 June 1813; Letters and Journals, ed. Rowland E. Prothero (1898-1901) 2:221-22.



June 18, 1813.

MY DEAR SIR, — I feel greatly at a loss how to write to you at all — still more to thank you as I ought. If you knew the veneration with which I have ever regarded you, long before I had the most distant prospect of becoming your acquaintance, literary or personal, my embarrassment would not surprise you.

Any suggestion of yours, even were it conveyed in the less tender shape of the text of the Baviad, or a Monk Mason note in Massinger, would have been obeyed; I should have endeavoured to improve myself by your censure: judge then if I shall be less willing to profit by your kindness. It is not for me to bandy compliments with my elders and my betters: I receive your approbation with gratitude, and will not return my brass for your Gold by expressing more fully those sentiments of admiration, which, however sincere, would, I know, be unwelcome.

To your advice on Religious topics, I shall equally attend. Perhaps the best way will be by avoiding them altogether. The already published objectionable passages have been much commented upon, but certainly have been rather strongly interpreted. I am no Bigot to Infidelity, and did not expect that, because I doubted the immortality of Man, I should be charged with denying the existence of a God. It was the comparative insignificance of ourselves and our world, when placed in competition with the mighty whole, of which it is an atom, that first led me to imagine that our pretensions to eternity might be over-rated.

This, and being early disgusted with a Calvinistic Scotch school, where I was cudgelled to Church for the first ten years of my life, afflicted me with this malady; for, after all, it is, I believe, a disease of the mind as much as other kinds of hypochondria.

I regret to hear you talk of ill-health. May you long exist! not only to enjoy your own fame, but outlive that of fifty such ephemeral adventurers as myself.

As I do not sail quite so soon as Murray may have led you to expect (not till July) I trust I have some chance of taking you by the hand before my departure, and repeating in person how sincerely and affectionately I am

Your obliged servant,

BYRON.