October 18 1815: Byron to Coleridge on Christabel


On October 18 1815, Lord Byron writes to Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Byron mentions that last spring, Walter Scott recited to him one of Coleridge’s unpublished poems “that  all took a hold on my imagination which I never shall wish to shake off”. Byron was not told the title of the poem, 

Dear Sir – Your letter I have just received. – I will willingly do whatever you direct about the volumes in question – the sooner the better – it shall not be for want of endeavour on my part – as a Negociator with the “Trade” (to talk technically) that you are not enabled to do yourself justice. – Last Spring I saw W[alte]r Scott – he repeated to me a considerable portion of an unpublished poem of yours – the wildest & finest I ever heard in that kind of composition – the title he did not mention – but I think the heroine’s name was Geraldine – at all events – the “toothless mastiff bitch” – & the “witch Lady” – the descriptions of the hall – the lamp suspended from the image – & more particularly of the Girl herself as she went forth in the evening – all took a hold on my imagination which I never shall wish to shake off. – I mention this – not for the sake of boring you with compliments – but as a prelude to the hope that this poem is or is to be in the volumes you are now about to publish. – I do not know that even “Love” or the “Ancient Mariner” are so impressive – & to me there are few things in our tongue beyond these two productions. – – W[alte]r Scott is a staunch & sturdy admirer of yours – & with a just appreciation of your capacity – deplored to me the want of inclination & exertion which prevented you from giving full scope to your mind. – I will answer your question as to the “Beggar’s [Bush?]” – tomorrow – or next day – I shall see Rae & Dibdin (the acting M[anage]rs) tonight for that purpose. – Oh – your tragedy – I do not wish to hurry you – but I am indeed very anxious to have it under consideration – it is a field in which there are none living to contend against you & in which I should take a pride & pleasure in seeing you compared with the dead – I say this not disinterestly but as a Committee man – we have nothing even tolerable – except a tragedy of Sotheby’s – which shall not interfere with yours – when ready – you can have no idea what trash there is in the four hundred fallow dramas now lying on the shelves of D[rury] L[ane]. I never thought so highly of good writers as lately – since I have had an opportunity of comparing them with the bad. –
ever yrs truly

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