August 26 1813: Byron’s Appeal for Punctuation

On August 26 1813, Lord Byron writes to John Murray, his publisher, with comments and proofs for a new edition of The Giaour, probably the fourth edition. In particular, Byron appeals to Murray to find someone who can add some punctuation to the poem.  “Do you know any body who can stop,” he writes, “I mean point-commas, and so forth? for I am, I hear, a sad hand at your punctuation”. 

August 26, 1813.

Dear Sir,— I have looked over and corrected one proof, but not so carefully (God knows if you can read it through, but I can’t) as to preclude your eye from discovering some omission of mine or commission of y’e Printer. If you have patience, look it over. Do you know any body who can stop—I mean point-commas, and so forth? for I am, I hear, a sad hand at your punctuation. I have, but with some difficulty, not added any more to this snake of a poem, which has been lengthening its rattles every month. It is now fearfully long, being more than a canto and a half of C. H., which contains but 882 lines per book, with all late additions inclusive.

The last lines Hodgson likes—it is not often he does —and when he don’t, he tells me with great energy, and I fret and alter. I have thrown them in to soften the ferocity of our Infidel, and, for a dying man, have given him a good deal to say for himself.

Do you think you shall get hold of the female MS. you spoke of to day? if so, you will let me have a glimpse; but don’t tell our master (not W’s), or we shall be buffeted.

I was quite sorry to hear you say you stayed in town on my account, and I hope sincerely you did not mean so superfluous a piece of politeness.

Our six critiques!—they would have made half a Quarterly by themselves; but this is the age of criticism.

Ever yours,

B

(Image above is a water colour by Géricault from a photograph taken by Robb Wilson found here.)

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