January 2 1816: A New Byron Poem


On January 2 1816, John Murray opens a letter from Lord Byron and finds a copy of a new poem, Parasina. The poem is a heart warming tale about a 15th century Duke of Ferrara who finds out that his second wife Parisina Malatesta has an incestuous relationship with his bastard son Ugo and puts them both to death. Murray writes to Byron and encloses a draft for a thousand guineas for the copyright of the Siege of Corinth and for Parisina. Byron refuses the money. It is also Byron’s first wedding anniversary.

My Lord I tore open the packet you sent me and have found in it a Pearl– it is very interesting – pathetic beautiful – do you know I would almost say Moral – I am really writing to you before the billows of the passions you have excited have subsided – I have been most agreeably disappointed (a word I cannot associate with the poem – at the Story which what you hinted to me and wrote – had alarmed me for & I should not have read it aloud to my wife – If my eye had not traced the delicate had that transcribed it – This poem is all action & interest not a line but what is necessary – now I do think that you should – fragmentize the first hundred & condense the last 30 of Corinth & then you have in words of the highest compliment “Two poems (as Mr H. said – as good as any you have written) I admire the fabrication of the “big Tear” which is very fine – much larger, by the way, than Shakesperes I do think you thought of Ney in casting off the bandage The Close is exquisite – & you know that alls well that ends well – with which I stop – I will answer for Mr Gifford – and to conclude (a Bargain) say that they are mine for the inclosed & add to the obligations of My Lord your faithful Servant John Murray

Byron answers the previous item on the same day. Rejecting the money for the poems.

Dear Sir Your offer is liberal in the extreme – (you see I use the word to & of you – though I would not consent to your using it {of yourself} to Mr . H) & much more than the two poems can possibly be worth – but I cannot accept it – nor will not. – You are most welcome to them as additions to the collected volumes without any demand – or expectation on my part whatever – but I cannot consent to their separate publication. – I do not like to risk my fame (whether merited or not) which I have been favoured with – upon compositions which I did not feel to be at all equal to my own notions of what they should be – (& as I flatter myself {some} have been here & there) – though they may do very well as things without pretension to add to the publication with the lighter pieces. – I am very glad that the handwriting was a favourable omen of the morale of the piece – but you must not trust to that – for my copyist would write {out} anything I desired in all the ignorance of innocence – I hope however in this instance with no great peril to either. – – y rs. very truly Byron

P.S. – I have enclosed your draft torn for fear of accidents by the way: – I wish you would not throw temptation in mine – it is not from a disdain of the universal idol – nor from a {present} superfluity of his treasures – I can assure you – that I {refuse to} worship {him} – but what is right is right – & must not yield to circumstances. –




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