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“Of course I cannot explain to you existing circumstances, as they
open all letters."
“Will you set me right about your curst “ Champs Elysées ? '-are they "és or "ées' for the adjective ? I know nothing of French, being all Italian. Though I can read and understand French, I never attempt to speak it ; for I hate it. From the second part of the Memoirs cut what you please.”
“ Ravenna, January 4, 1821. "I just see, by the papers of Galignani, that there is a new tragedy of great expectation, by Barry Cornwall. Of what I have read of his works I liked the Dramatic Sketches, but thought his Sicilian Story and Marcian Colonna, in rhyme, quite spoilt, by I know not what affectation of Wordsworth, and Moore, and myself, all mixed up into a kind of chaos. I think him very likely to produce a good tragedy, if he keep to a natural style, and not play tricks to form harlequinades for an audience. As he (Barry Cornwall is not his true name) was a schoolfellow of mine, I take more than common interest in his success, and shall be glad to hear of it speedily. If I had been aware that he was in that line, I should have spoken of him in the preface to Marino Faliero. He will do a world's wonder if he produce a great tragedy. I am, however, persuaded, that this is not to be done by following the old dramatists, who are full of gross faults, pardoned only for the beauty of their language,--but by writing naturally and regularly, and producing regular tragedies, like the Greeks ; but not in imitation,-merely the outline of their conduct, adapted to our own times and circumstances, and of course no chorus.
6. You will laugh, and say, 'Why don't you do so ?' I have, you see, tried a sketch in Marino Faliero ; but many people think my talent' sentially undramatic, and I am not at all clear that they are not right. If Marino Faliero don't fall—in the perusal—I shall, perhaps, try again (but not for the stage); and, as I think that love is not the principal passion for tragedy (and yet most of ours turn upon it), you will not find me a popular writer. Unless it is love, furious, criminal, and hapless, it ought not to make a tragic subject. When it is melting and maudlin, it does, but it ought not to do; it is then for the gallery and secondprice boxes.
“ If you want to have a notion of what I am trying, take up a transtation of any of the Greek tragedians. If I said the original, it would be an impudent presumption of mine; but the translations are so inferior to the originals, that I think I may risk it. Then judge of the simplicity of plot,' &c. and do not judge me by your old mad dramatists, which is like drinking usquebaugh and then proving a fountain. Yet, after all, I suppose that you do not mean that spirits is a nobler element than a clear spring bubbling in the sun ? and this I take to be the difference between the Greeks and those turbid mountebanks—always excepting
Ben Jonson, who was a scholar and a classic. Or, take up a translation of Alfieri, and try the interest, &c. of these my new attempts in the old line, by him in English ; and then tell me fairly your opinion. But don't measure me by Your Own old or new tailors' yards. Nothing so easy as intricate confusion of plot and rant. Mrs. Centlivre, in comedy, has ten times the bustle of Congreve; but are they to be compared ? and yet she drove Congreve from the theatre."
“ Ravenna, January 19, 1821. “ Yours of the 29th ultimo hath arrived. I must really and seriously, request that you will beg of Messrs. Harris or Elliston to let the Doge alone : it is not an acting play; it will not serve their purpose ; it will destroy yours (the sale); and it will distress me.
It is not courteous, it is hardly even gentlemanly, to persist in this appropriation of a man's writings to their mountebanks.
“I have already sent you by last post a short protest to the public (against this proceeding); in case that they persist, which I trust that they will not, you must then publish it in the newspapers. I shall not let them off with that only, if they go on ; but make a longer appeal on that subject, and state what I think the injustice of their mode of behaviour. It is hard that I should have all the buffoons in Britain to deal withpirates who will publish, and players who will act—when there are thousands of worthy men who can get neither bookseller nor manager for love nor money.
“ You never answered me a word about Galignani. If you mean to use the two documents, do; if not, burn them. I do not choose to leave them in any one's possession : suppose some one found them without the letters, what would they think ? why, that I had been doing the opposite of what I have done, to wit, referred the whole thing to you--an act of çivility at least, which required saying, “I have received your
letter.' I thought that you might have some hold upon those publications by this means ; to me it can be no interest one way or the other. †
“ The third canto of Don Juan is dull,' but you must really put up with it: if the two first and the two following are tolerable, what do you expect ? particularly as I neither dispute with you on it as a matter of criticism, nor as a matter of business.
* To the letter which enclosed this protest, and which has been omitted to avoid repetitions, he had subjoined a passage from Spence's Anecdotes (p. 197 of Singer's edition), where Pope says, speaking of himself, “ I had taken such strong resolutions against any thing of that kind, from seeing how much every body that did write for the stage was obliged to subject themselves to the players and the town.”—Spence's Anecdotes, p. 22.
In the same paragraph, Pope is made to say, “After I had got acquainted with the town, I resolved never to write any thing for the stage, though solicited by many of
my friends to do so, and particularly Betterton.”
+ No further step was ever taken in this affair ; and the documents, which were of no use whatever, are, I believe, still in Mr. Murray's possession.
that is not my
* Besides, what am I to understand ? you and Douglas Kinnaird, and others, write to me, that the two first published cantos are among the best that I ever wrote, and are reckoned so ; Augusta writes that they are thought execrable' (bitter word that for an author-eh, Murray?) as a composition even, and that she had heard so much against them that she would never read them, and never has. Be that as it may, I can't alter;
you publish the three new ones without ostentation, they may perhaps succeed.
* Pray publish the Dante and the Pulci (the Prophecy of Dante, I mean). I look upon the Pulci as my grand performance. * The remainder of the · Hints,' where be they? Now, bring them all out about the same time, otherwise the variety' you wot of will be less obvious.
“I am in bad humour: some obstructions in business with those plaguy trustees, who object to an advantageous loan which I was to furnish to a nobleman on mortgage, because his property is in Ireland, have shown me how a man is treated in his absence. Oh, if I do come back, I will make some of those who little dream of it spin-or they or I shall go down.”
“ January 20, 1821. "" I did not think to have troubled you with the plague and postage of a double letter this time, but I have just read in an Italian paper,
· That Lord Byron has a tragedy coming out,' &c. &c. &c. and that the Courier and Morning Chronicle, &c. &c. are pulling one another to pieces about it and him, &c.
• Now I do reiterate and desire, that every thing may be done to prevent it from coming out on any theatre, for which it never was designed, and on which (in the present state of the stage of London) it could never succeed. I have sent you my appeal by last post, which
must publish in case of need; and I require you even in your own name (if my honour is dear to you) to declare that such representation would be contrary to my wish and to my judgment. If you do not wish to drive me mad altogether, you will hit upon some way to prevent this.
Yours, &c. - P.S. I cannot conceive how Harris or Elliston should be so insane as to think of acting Marino Faliero ; they might as well act the Prometheus of Æschylus. I speak of course humbly, and with the greatest sense of the distance of time and merit between the two performances ; but merely to show the absurdity of the attempt.
“ The Italian paper speaks of a party against it ;' to be sure there
* The self-will of Lord Byron was in no point more conspicuous than in the determination with which he thus persisted in giving the preference to one or two works of his own which, in the eyes of all other persons, were most decided failures. Of this class was the translation from Pulci, so frequently mentioned by him, which appeared afterwards in the Liberal, and which though thus rescued from the fate of remaining unpublished, must for ever, I fear, submit to the doom of being unread.,
would be a party. Can you imagine, that after having never flattered man, nor beast, nor opinion, nor politics, there would not be a party against a man, who is also a popular writer-at least a successful ? Why, all parties would be a party against."
“ Ravenna, January 20, 182). “ If Harris or Elliston persist, after the remonstrance which I desired you and Mr. Kinnaird to make on my behalf, and which I hope will be sufficient—but if, I say, they do persist, then pray you to present in person the enclosed letter to the Lord Chamberlain ; I have said in person, because otherwise I shall have neither answer nor knowledge that it has reached its address, owing to the insolence of office.' " I wish you would speak to Lord Holland, and to all
friends and yours, to interest themselves in preventing this cursed attempt at representation.
“God help me! at this distance, I am treated like a corpse or a fool by the few people that I thought I could rely upon ; and I was a fool to think
better of them than of the rest of mankind. “Pray write.
Yours, &c. “P.S. I have nothing more at heart (that is, in literature) than to prevent this drama from going upon the stage : in short, rather than permit it, it must be suppressed altogether, and only forty copies struck off privately for presents to my friends. What curst fools those speculating buffoons must be not to see that it is unfit for their fair--or their booth !"
“ Ravenna, January 2, 1821. Pray get well. I do not like your complaint. So, let me have a line to say you are up and doing again. To-day I am thirty-three years
“ Through life's road, &c. &c.*
“ Have you heard that the · Braziers' Company' have, or mean to 'present an address at Brandenburgh House, 'in armour,' and with all possible variety and splendour of brazen apparel ?
“ The Braziers, it seems, are preparing to pass-
6. There's an Ode for you, is it not?-worthy
Already given in his Journal.
“Mestri and Fusina are the trajects, or common es,' to Venice; but it was from Fusina that you and I embarked, though the wicked necessity of rhyming' has made me press Mestri into the voyage.
“So, you have had a book dedicated to you? I am glad of it, and shall be very happy to see the volume.
“ I am in a peck of trouble about a tragedy of mine, which is fit only for the (* * * * *) closet, and which it seems that the managers, assuming a right over published poetry, are determined to enact, whether I will or no, with their own alterations by Mr. Dibdin, I presume.
1 have written to Murray, to the Lord Chamberlain, and to others, to interfere and preserve me from such an exhibition. I want neither the impertinence of their hisses, nor the insolence of their applause. I write only for the reader, and care for nothing but the silent approbation of those who close one's book with good humour and quiet contentment.
“Now, if you would also write to our friend Perry, to beg of him to mediate with Harris and Elliston to forbear this intent, you will greatly oblige me. The play is quite unfit for the stage, as a single glance will show them, and I hope, has shown them; and, if it were ever so fit, I will never have any thing to do willingly with the theatres.
“ Yours ever, in haste," &c.
“ Ravenna, January 27, 1821. "I differ from you about the Dante, which I think should be published with the tragedy. But do as you please : you must be the best judge of your own craft. I
The play may be good or bad, but I flatter myself that it is original as a picture of that kind of passion, which to my mind is so natural, that I am convinced that I should have done precisely what the Doge did on those provocations.
“I am glad of Foscolo's approbation.
that I forget what it was ; but no matter.
“ Thanks for your compliments of the year. I hope that it will be pleasanter than the last. I speak with reference to England only, as far as regards myself, where I had every kind of disappointment—lost an important law-suit-and the trustees of Lady Byron refusing to allow of an advantageous, loan to be made from my property to Lord Blessington, &c. &c. by way of closing the four seasons. These, and a hundred other such things, made a year of bitter business for me in England. Luckily, things were a little pleasanter for me here, else I should have taken the liberty of Hannibal's ring.