1819 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Lord Byron

William Gifford to John Murray, 1 July 1819; Smiles, A Publisher and his Friends: Memoir of John Murray (1891) 1:403-04.



Ryde, July 1st, 1819.

Lord B.'s letter is shockingly amusing. He must be mad; but then there's method in his madness. I dread, however, the end. He is, or rather might be, the most extraordinary character of his age. I have lived to see three great men — men to whom none come near in their retrospective provinces — Pitt, Nelson, Wellington. Morality and religion would have placed our friend among them as the fourth boast of the time; even a decent respect for the good opinion of mankind might have done much now; but all is tending to displace him....

[From an undated letter] How goes on, or rather how goes off, the Don? I read the second canto this morning and lost all patience at seeing so much beauty so wantonly and perversely disfigured. A little care, and a little wish to do right, would have made this a superlative thing. As it is, it is better than any other could have done; but this is poor praise for Lord Byron. What a store of shame and sorrow is he laying up for himself! I never much admired the vaunt of Dracaonianism, "And all this I dare do, because I dare," yet what but this is Lord Byron's plea!