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Produced by Clytie Siddall, Keren Vergon, and the Online
Byron’s Letter and Journals
(August 1811-April 1814)
Part of Byron’s Works
a New, Revised and Enlarged Edition, with Illustrations.
This volume edited by Rowland E. Prothero
- Chapter V—Childe Harold, Cantos I, II
- Chapter VI—The Idol of Society—The Drury Lane Address—Second Speech in Parliament
- Chapter VII—The Giaour and Bride of Abydos
- Chapter VIII—Journal: November 14, 1813-April 19, 1814
- Appendix I—Articles from The Monthly Review
- Appendix II—Parliamentary Speeches
- Appendix III—Lady Caroline Lamb and Byron
- Appendix IV—Letters of Bernard Barton
- Appendix V—Correspondence with Walter Scott
- Appendix VI—”The Giant and the Dwarf”
- Appendix VII—Attacks upon Byron in the Newspapers for February and March, 1814
The second volume of Mr. Murray’s edition of Byron’s Letters and Journals carries the autobiographical record of the poet’s life from August, 1811, to April, 1814. Between these dates were published Childe Harold (Cantos I., II.), The Waltz, The Giaour, The Bride of Abydos, the Ode to Napoleon Buonaparte. At the beginning of this period Byron had suddenly become the idol of society; towards its close his personal popularity almost as rapidly declined before a storm of political vituperation.
Three great collections of Byron’s letters, as was noted in the Preface to the previous volume1, are in existence. The first is contained in Moore’s Life (1830); the second was published in America, in FitzGreene Halleck’s edition of Byron’s Works (1847); of the third, edited by Mr. W. E. Henley, only the first volume has yet appeared. A comparison between the letters contained in these three collections and in that of Mr. Murray, down to December, 1813, shows the following results: Moore prints 152 letters; Halleck, 192; Mr. Henley, 231. Mr. Murray’s edition adds 236 letters to Moore, 196 to Halleck, and to Mr. Henley 157. It should also be noticed that the material added to Moore’s Life in the second and third collections consists almost entirely of letters which were already in print, and had been, for the most part, seen and rejected by the biographer. The material added in Mr. Murray’s edition, on the contrary, consists mainly of letters which have never before been published, and were inaccessible to Moore when he wrote his Life of Byron.
These necessary comparisons suggest some further remarks. It would have been easy, not only to indicate what letters or portions of letters are new, but also to state the sources whence they are derived. But, in the circumstances, such a course, at all events for the present, is so impolitic as to be impossible. On the other hand, anxiety has been expressed as to the authority for the text which is adopted in these volumes. To satisfy this anxiety, so far as circumstances allow, the following details are given.
The material contained in these two volumes consists partly of letters now for the first time printed; partly of letters already published by Moore, Dallas, and Leigh Hunt, or in such books as Galt’s Life of Lord Byron, and the Memoirs of Francis Hodgson. Speaking generally, it may be said that the text of the new matter, with the few exceptions noted below, has been prepared from the original letters, and that it has proved impossible to authenticate the text of most of the old material by any such process.
The point may be treated in greater detail. Out of the 388 letters contained in these two volumes, 220 have been printed from the original letters. In these 220 are included practically the whole of the new material. Among the letters thus collated with the originals are those to Mrs. Byron (with four exceptions), all those to the Hon. Augusta Byron, to the Hanson family, to James Wedderburn Webster, and to John Murray, twelve of those to Francis Hodgson, those to the younger Rushton, William Gifford, John Cam Hobhouse, Lady Caroline Lamb, Mrs. Parker, Bernard Barton, and others. The two letters to Charles Gordon (30, 33), the three to Captain Leacroft (62, 63, 64), and the one to Ensign Long (vol. ii. p. 19, note), are printed from copies only.
The old material stands in a different position. Efforts have been made to discover the original letters, and sometimes with success. But it still remains true that, speaking generally, the printed text of the letters published by Moore, Dallas, Leigh Hunt, and others, has not been collated with the originals. The fact is important. Moore, who, it is believed, destroyed not only his own letters from Byron, but also many of those entrusted to him for the preparation of the Life, allowed himself unusual liberties as an editor. The examples of this licence given in Mr. Clayden’s Rogers and his Contemporaries throw suspicion on his text, even where no apparent motive exists for his suppressions. But, as Byron’s letters became more bitter in tone, and his criticisms of his contemporaries more outspoken, Moore felt himself more justified in omitting passages which referred to persons who were still living in 1830. From 1816 onwards, it will be found that he has transferred passages from one letter to another, or printed two letters as one, and vice versâ, or made such large omissions as to shorten letters, in some instances, by a third or even a half. No collation with the originals has ever been attempted, and the garbled text which Moore printed is the only text at present available for an edition of the most important of Byron’s letters. But the originals of the majority of the letters published in the Life, from 1816 to 1824, are in the possession or control of Mr. Murray, and in his edition they will be for the first time printed as they were written. If any passages are omitted, the omissions will be indicated.
Besides the new letters contained in this volume, passages have been restored from Byron’s manuscript notes (Detached Thoughts, 1821). To these have been added Sir Walter Scott’s comments, collated with the originals, and, in several instances, now for the first time published.
Appendix VII. contains a collection of the attacks made upon him in the Tory press for February and March, 1814, which led him, for the moment, to resolve on abandoning his literary work.
In conclusion, I wish to repeat my acknowledgment of the invaluable aid of the National Dictionary of Biography, both in the facts which it supplies and the sources of information which it suggests.
R. E. Prothero.
List of Journal Entries
- November 16th, 1813
- November 17th, 1813
- November 22nd, 1813
- November 23rd, 1813
- November 24th, 1813
- ‘Mezza Notte’
- November 26th, 1813
- November 27th, 1813
- November 30th, 1813
- December 1st, 1813
- December 5th, 1813
- December 6th, 1813
- December 7th, 1813
- December 10th, 1813
- December 12th, 1813
- December 13th, 1813
- December 14th, 15th, 16th, 1813
- December 17th, 18th, 1813
- January 16th, 1814
- February 18th, 1814
- February 19th, 1814
- February 20th, 1814
- February 27th, 1814
- March 6th, 1814
- March 7th, 1814
- March 10th, 1814
- March 15th, 1814
- March 17th, 1814
- March 20th, 1814
- March 22nd, 1814
- March 28th, 1814
- April 8th, 1814
- April 9th, 1814
- April 10th, 1814
- April 19th, 1814