1811 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Lord Byron

John Murray to Lord Byron, 4 September 1811; Smiles, A Publisher and his Friends: Memoir of John Murray (1891) 1:208-09.



September 4th, 1811.

MY LORD,

An absence of some days passed in the country, has prevented me from writing earlier, in answer to your obliging letter. I have now, however, the pleasure of sending you, under a separate cover, the first proof sheets of your poem [Childe Harold]; which is so good as to be entitled to all your care in rendering it perfect. Besides its general merits, there are parts which, I am tempted to believe, far excel anything that you have hitherto published; and it were therefore grievous indeed if you do not condescend to bestow upon it all the improvements of which you mind is so capable. Every correction already made is valuable, and this circumstance renders me more confident in soliciting your further attention. There are some expressions concerning Spain and Portugal which, however just at the time they were conceived, yet, as they do not harmonise with the now prevalent feeling, I am persuaded would so greatly interfere with the popularity which the poem is, in other respects, certainly calculated to excite, that, in compassion to your publisher, who does not presume to reason upon the subject, otherwise than as a mere matter of business, I hope your goodness will induce you to remove them; and with them perhaps some religious sentiments which may deprive me of some customers among the Orthodox. Could I flatter myself that these suggestions were not obtrusive, I would hazard another, — that you would add the two promised cantos, and complete the poem. It were cruel indeed not to perfect a work which contains so much that is excellent. Your fame, my Lord, demands it. You are raising a monument that will outlive your present feelings; and it should therefore be constructed in such a manner as to excite no other association than that of respect and admiration for your character and genius. I trust that you will pardon the warmth of this address, when I assure ou that it arises, in the greatest degree, from a sincere regard for your best reputation; with, however, some view to that portion of it which must attend the publisher of so beautiful a poem as you are capable of rendering in the "Romaunt of Childe Harold.