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Page:The Works of Lord Byron (ed. Coleridge, Prothero) - Volume 4.djvu/115

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642; [81] see Letters, 1901, v. Appendix II. "Goethe and Byron," pp. 503-521): "His Faust I never read, for I don't know German; but Matthew Monk Lewis (sic), in 1816, at Coligny, translated most of it to me viva voce, and I was naturally much struck with it; but it was the Staubach (sic) and the Jungfrau, and something else, much more than Faustus, that made me write Manfred. The first scene, however, and that of Faustus are very similar" (Letter to Murray, June 7, 1820, Letters, 1901, v. 36). Medwin (Conversations, etc., pp. 210, 211), who of course had not seen the letters to Murray of 1817 or 1820, puts much the same story into Byron's mouth.

Now, with regard to the originality of Manfred, it may be taken for granted that Byron knew nothing about the "Faust-legend," or the "Faust-cycle." He solemnly denies that he had ever read Marlowe's Faustus, or the selections from the play in Lamb's Specimens, etc. (see Medwin's Conversations, etc., pp. 208, 209, and a hitherto unpublished Preface to Werner, vol. v.), and it is highly improbable that he knew anything of Calderon's El Mágico Prodigioso, which Shelley translated in 1822, or of "the beggarly elements" of the legend in Hroswitha's Lapsus et Conversio Theophrasti Vice-domini. But Byron's Manfred is "in the succession" of scholars who have reached the limits of natural and legitimate science, and who essay the supernatural in order to penetrate and comprehend the "hidden things of darkness." A predecessor, if not a progenitor, he must have had, and there can be no doubt whatever that the primary conception of the character, though by no means the inspiration of the poem, is to be traced to the "Monk's" oral rendering of Goethe's Faust, which he gave in return for his "bread and salt" at Diodati. Neither Jeffrey nor Wilson mentioned Faust, but the writer of the notice in the Critical Review (June, 1817, series v. vol. 5, pp. 622-629) avowed that "this scene (the first) is a gross plagiary from a great poet whom Lord Byron has imitated on former occasions without comprehending. Goethe's Faust begins in the same way;" and Goethe himself, in a letter to his friend Knebel, October, 1817, and again in his review in Kunst und Alterthum, June, 1820, emphasizes whilst he justifies and applauds the use which Byron had made of his work. "This singular intellectual poet has taken my Faustus to himself, and extracted from it the strangest nourishment for his hypochondriac humour. He has made use of the impelling principles in his own way, for his own purposes, so that no one of them remains the same; and it is particularly on this account that I cannot enough admire his genius." Afterwards (see record of a conversation with Herman Fürst