1812 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Sir Walter Scott

John Murray to Sir Walter Scott, 27 June 1812; Smiles, in A Publisher and his Friends: Memoir of John Murray (1891) 1:213.



I cannot refrain, notwithstanding my fears of intrusion, from mentioning to you a conversation which Lord Byron had with H.R.H. the Prince Regent, and of which you formed the leading subject. He was at an evening party at Miss Johnson's this week, when the Prince, hearing that Lord Byron was present, expressed a desire to be introduced to him; and for more than half an hour they conversed on poetry and poets, with which the Prince displayed an intimacy and critical taste which at once surprised and delighted Lord Byron. But the Prince's great delight was Walter Scott, whose name and writings he dwelt upon and recurred to incessantly. He preferred him far beyond any other poet of the time, repeated several passages with fervour, and criticized him faithfully. He spoke chiefly of the Lay of the Last Minstrel, which he expressed himself as admiring most of the three poems. He quoted Homer, and even some of the obscurer Greek poets, and appeared, as Lord Byron supposes, to have read more poetry than any prince in Europe. He paid, of course, many compliments to Lord Byron, but the greatest was "that he ought to be offended with Lord B., for that he had thought it impossible for any poet to equal Walter Scott, and that he had made him find himself mistaken." Lord Byron called upon me, merely to let off the raptures of the Prince respecting you, thinking, as he said, that if I were likely to have occasion to write to you, it might not be ungrateful for you to hear of his praises. It is remarkable that the Prince never mentioned Campbell.