Ryde, July 18th, 1819.
I am agreeably disappointed at finding "Don Juan" very little offensive. It is by no means worse than "Childe Harold," which it resembles as comedy does tragedy. There is a prodigious power of versification in it, and a great deal of very good pleasantry. There is also some magnificent poetry, and the shipwreck, though too long, and in parts very disgusting, is on the whole finely described. In short, I think it will not lose him any character as a poet, and, on the score of morality, I confess it seems to me a more innocent production than "Childe Harold." What "Don Juan may become by-and-by I cannot foresee, but at present I had rather a son of mine were Don Juan than, I think, any other of Lord Byron's heroes. Heaven grant he may never resemble any of them.
I had Crabbe's tales with me on shipboard, and they were a treasure. I never was so much taken with anything. The tales are in general so well conducted that, in prose, they would be interesting as mere stories; but to this are added such an admirable ease and force of diction, such good pleasantry, such high principles, such a strain of poetry, such a profundity of observation, and such a gaiety of illustration as I never before, I think, saw collected. He imagines his stories with the humour and truth of Chaucer, and tells them with the copious terseness of Dryden, and the tender and thoughtful simplicity of Cowper. This high commendation does not apply to the whole of the tales, nor, perhaps, to the whole of any one. There are sad exceptions here and there, which might easily be removed, but on the whole it is a delightful book.
Mr. Gifford has set me Leigh Hunt as a task. He asks but two or three pages, and I shall see what I can do this evening, but I had rather have let it alone.
J. W. CROKER.