October 30 1815: Byron on Wordsworth


On October 30 1815, Lord Byron writes to Leigh Hunt, and thrashes Wordsworth.

My dear Hunt – Many thanks for your books of which you already know my opinion. – Their external splendour should not disturb you as inappropriate – they have still more within than without. – – – – I take leave to differ from you on Wordsworth as freely as I once agreed with you – at that time I gave him credit for promise which is unfulfilled – I still think his capacity warrants all you say {of it only –} but that his performances since “Lyrical Ballads” – are miserably inadequate to the ability which lurks within him: – there is undoubtedly {much} natural talent spilt over “the Excursion” but it is rain upon rocks where it stands & stagnates – or rain upon sands where it falls without fertilizing – who can understand him? – let those who do make him intelligible. – Jacob Behman – Swedenborg – & Joanna Southcote are mere types of this Arch=Apostle of mystery & mysticism – but I have done: – no I have not done – for I have two petty & perhaps unworthy objections in small matters to make to him – which with his pretension to accurate observation & fury against Pope’s false translation of the “Moonlight scene in Homer” I wonder he should have fallen into – these be they. – He says of Greece in the body of his book – that it is a land of

“rivers – fertile plains – & sounding shores

Under a cope of variegated sky.”

The rivers are dry half the year – the plains are barren – and the shores still & tideless as the Mediterranean can make them – the Sky is anything but variegated – being for months & months – but “darkly – deeply – beautifully blue.” – The next is in his notes – where he talks of our “Monuments crouded together in the busy &c. of a large town” – as compared with the “still seclusion of a Turkish cemetery in some remote place” – this is pure stuff – for one monument in our Churchyards – there are ten in the Turkish – & so crouded that you cannot walk between them – they are always close to the walls of the towns – that is – merely divided by a path or road – and as to “remote places” – men never take the trouble in a barbarous country to carry their dead very far – they must have lived {near to} where they are buried – there are no cemeteries in “remote places” – except such as have the cypress & the tombstone {still} left when the olive & the habitation of the living have perished. – – These things I was struck with as coming peculiarly in my own 2) way – and in both of these he is wrong – yet I should have noticed neither but for his attack on Pope {for a like blunder} – and a peevish affectation about him of despising a popularity which he will never obtain. – I write in great haste – & I doubt – not much to the purpose – but you have it hot & hot – just as it comes – & so let it go. – – – – –

By the way – both he & you go too far against Pope’s “so when the Moon &c .” it is no translation I know – but it is not such false description as asserted – I have read it on the spot – – there is a burst – and a lightness – and a glow – about the night in the Troad –  which makes the “planets vivid” – & the “pole glowing” the moon is – at least the sky is – dearness itself – and I know no more appropriate expression for the expansion of such a {heaven} – over the scene – the plain – the sea – the sky – Ida – the Hellespont – Simois – Scamander – and the isles – than {that of} a “flood of Glory.” – – – – – –

I am getting horribly lengthy – & must stop – – to the whole of your letter I say “ditto to Mr . Burke” as the Bristol Candidate cried by way of Electioneering harangue: – <&> you need not speak of morbid feelings – & vexations to me – I have plenty – for which I must blame partly the times – & chiefly myself: but let us forget them – I shall be very apt to do so – when I see you next – will you come to the theatre & see our new Management? – you shall cut it up to your heart’s content root & branch afterwards if you like – but come & see it? – if not I must come & see you. – ever yrs very truly & affectly . Byron

PS – Not a word from Moore for these 2 months. – pray let me have the rest of “Rimini you have 2 excellent points in that poem – originality – & Italianism – I will back you as a bard against half the fellows on whom you throw away much good criticism & eulogy – but – don’t let your bookseller publish in Quarto it is the worst {size} possible for circulation – I say this on Bibliopolical authority – again – yours ever /B/

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