Saturday, November 7, 2009

Byron Letter to Shelley, 1821

to Percy Bysshe Shelley,
Ravenna, April 26, 1821

The child continues doing well, and the accounts are regular and favorable. It is gratifying to me that you and Mrs Shelley do not disapprove of the step which I have taken, which is merely temporary.

I am very sorry to hear what you say of Keats - is it actually true? I did not think criticism had been so killing. Though I differ from you essentially in your estimate of his performances, I so much abhor all unnecessary pain, that I would rather he had been seated on the highest peak of Parnassus than have perished in such a manner. Poor fellow! though with such inordinate self-love he would probably have not been very happy. I read the review of "Endymion" in the Quarterly. It was severe, - but surely not so severe as many reviews in that and other journals upon others.

I recollect the effect on me of the Edinburgh on my first poem; it was rage, and resistance, and redress - but not despondency nor despair. I grant that those are not amiable feelings; but, in this world of bustle and broil, and especially in the career of writing, a man should calculate upon his powers of resistance before he goes into the arena.

"Expect not life from pain nor danger free,
Nor deem the doom of man reversed for thee."

You know my opinion of that second-hand school of poetry. You also know my high opinion of your own poetry, - because it is of no school. I read Cenci - but, besides that I think the subject essentially undramatic, I am not an admirer of our old dramatists, as models. I deny that the English have hitherto had a drama at all. Your Cenci, however, was a work of power, and poetry. As to my drama, pray revenge yourself upon it, by being as free as I have been with yours.

I have not yet got your Prometheus, which I long to see. I have heard nothing of mine, and do not know if it is yet published. I have published a pamphlet on the Pope controversy, which you will not like. Had I known that Keats was dead - or that he was alive and so sensitive - I should have omitted some remarks upon his poetry, to which I was provoked by his attack upon Pope, and my disapprobation of his own style of writing.

You want me to undertake a great Poem - I have not the inclination nor the power. As I grow older, the indifference - not to life, for we love it by instinct - but to the stimuli of life, increases. Besides, this late failure of the Italians has latterly disappointed me for many reasons, - some public, some personal. My respects to Mrs S.
Yours ever.
P.S. Could not you and I contrive to meet this summer? Could not you take a run here alone?


The child Byron refers to was Allegra, his daughter with Shelley's sister-in-law Claire Clairmont.

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