April 18 1816: Mr. Wordsworth is Scandalized

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“Let me only say one word upon Lord B[yron]. The man is insane; and will probably end his career in a mad-house. I never thought him anything else since his first appearance in public.

The verses on his private affairs excite in me less indignation than pity. The latter copy is the Billingsgate of Bedlam. – Your Correspondent A. S. has written, begging his pardon, a very foolish Letter upon the Verses that appeared in the Chronicle – I have not seen them, but I have no doubt that what he praises so highly is contemptible as a work of Art, like the Ode to the Emperor Nap. – You yourself, appear to me to labour under some delusion as to the merits of Lord B[yron]’s Poetry, and treat those wretched verses, The farewell, with far too much respect. They are disgusting in sentiment, and in execution contemptible. “Though my many faults defaced me” etc. Can worse doggrel be written than such a stanza? One verse is commendable, “All my madness none can know”, “Sine dementia nullus Phœbus”; but what a difference between the amabilis insania of inspiration, and the fiend-like exasperation of these wretched productions. It avails nothing to attempt to heap up indignation upon the heads of those whose talents are extolled in the same breath. The true way of dealing with these men is to shew that they want genuine power. That talents they have, but that these talents are of a mean order; and that their productions have no solid basis to rest upon. Allow them to be men of high genius, and they have gained their point and will go on triumphing in their iniquity; demonstrate them to be what in truth they are, in all essentials, Dunces, and I will not that you will reform them; but by abating their pride you will strip their wickedness of the principal charm in their own eyes.”

— William Wordsworth writes to John Scott on April 18, 1816.

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