1812 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Bernard Barton

Lord Byron to Bernard Barton, 1 June 1812; Letters and Journals, ed. Rowland E. Prothero (1898-1901) 2:123-25.



8, St. James's St., June 1, 1812.

The most satisfactory answer to the concluding part of your letter is that Mr. Murray will republish your volume, if you still retain your inclination for the experiment, which I trust will be successful. Some weeks ago my friend Mr. Rogers showed me some of the stanzas in MS., and I then expressed my opinion of their merit, which a further perusal of the printed volume has given me no reason to revoke. I mention this, as it may not be disagreeable to you to learn that I entertained a very favourable opinion of your powers, before I was aware that such sentiments were reciprocal.

Waiving your obliging expressions as to my own productions, for which I thank you very sincerely, and assure you that I think not lightly of the praise of one whose approbation is valuable, will you allow me to talk to you candidly, not critically, on the subject of yours? You will not suspect me of a wish to discourage, since I pointed out to the publisher the propriety of complying with your wishes. I think more highly of your poetical talents than it would, perhaps, gratify you to hear expressed, for I believe, from what I observe of your mind, that you are above flattery. To come to the point, you deserve success, but we know, before Addison wrote his Cato, that desert does not always command it. But, suppose it attained,—

You know what ills the author's life assail,
Toil, envy, want, the patron and the jail.

Do not renounce writing, but never trust entirely to authorship. If you have a possession, retain it; it will be, like Prior's fellowship, a last and sure resource. Compare Mr. Rogers with other authors of the day; assuredly he is amongst the first of living poets, but is it to that he owes his station in society, and his intimacy in the best circles? No, it is to his prudence and respectability; the world (a bad one, I own) courts him because he has no occasion to court it. He is a poet, nor is he less so because he was something more. I am not sorry to hear that you are not tempted by the vicinity of Capel Loft, Esqr., though, if he had done for you what he has done for the Bloomfields, I should never have laughed at his rage for patronising. But a truly constituted mind will ever be independent. That you may be so is my sincere wish, and, if others think as well of your poetry as I do, you will have no cause to complain of your readers.

Believe me, etc.