February 28 1815: “Literarilly (If There Be Such a Word)”


On February 28 1815, Lord Byron writes to Francis Jeffrey, the editor of the Edinburgh Review.

My dear Sir—Mr. Hobhouse will not feel less gratified than I have felt, in your approbation and acceptance of his article, which will be faithfully conveyed to him.

Whatever pride I may have felt in your praise of works which I will not affect to undervalue, since they have been sanctioned by your judgment, is nevertheless far inferior to the pleasure I should derive from the power of exciting, and the opportunity of cultivating, your personal friendship. My former letter in 1812 was written under circumstances of embarrassment; for, although you had not allowed my rashness to operate upon your public sentence, I was by no means sure that your private feelings were equally unbiassed. Indeed, I felt that I did not deserve that they should be so, and was, besides, not a little apprehensive of the misconstruction which might be put upon my motives by others, though your own spirit and generosity would acquit me of such to yourself. I shall be now most happy to obtain and preserve whatever portion of your regard you may allot to me. The whole of your conduct to me has already secured mine, with many obligations which would be oppressive, were it not for my esteem of him who has conferred them. I hope we shall meet before a very long time has elapsed, and then, and now, I would willingly endeavour to sustain your good opinion.

I think Waverley can be none but Scott’s. There are so many of his familiar phrases—” Balmawhapple was with difficulty got to horse;” “any gentleman curious in Christian burial;” “poor Rose here lost heart;” and a hundred other expressions are so like some of his in letters, that, though slight, I think them sure indications of his touches. Be it whose it may, it is the best novel, to my mind, of many years, and I cannot help thinking, will outlive Mrs. Radcliffe and all her ghostly graduates. We have not got “Guy” yet. I should be very happy to try my hand upon some of your humbler patients; but I must take some time and pains, and cannot hope, like Gil Bias, to acquire the whole art at once. Nothing has ever surprised me more than the uniform tone of good writing and original thinking which has been kept up amidst such variety, and even in the drier articles, of the E. R., and I would not adventure myself hastily into so much good company. Our friend Moore does as well as if he had done nothing else all his life; but the fact is, he has powers and versatility of talent for what he will. I have brought myself to the end of my sheet. I know you are very busy, professionally and literarilly (if there be such a word), and will only beg you not to throw away your time in answering mc, till fully and leisurely disposed so far to oblige. —Ever yours most truly. Byron.

P.S.—”Poetry”!—Oh Lord!—I have been married these two months.

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