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The Works of Lord Byron (ed. Coleridge, Prothero)/Poetry/Volume 7/Epistle to Mr. Murray

For works with similar titles, see To Mr. Murray.



My dear Mr. Murray,
You're in a damned hurry
To set up this ultimate Canto;[1]
But (if they don't rob us)
You'll see Mr. Hobhouse
Will bring it safe in his portmanteau.


For the Journal you hint of,[2]
As ready to print off,
No doubt you do right to commend it;
But as yet I have writ off
The devil a bit of
Our "Beppo:"—when copied, I'll send it.


In the mean time you've "Galley"[3]
Whose verses all tally,
Perhaps you may say he 's a Ninny,
But if you abashed are
Because of Alashtar,
He'll piddle another Phrosine.[4]


Then you've Sotheby's Tour,—[5]
No great things, to be sure,—
You could hardly begin with a less work;
For the pompous rascallion,
Who don't speak Italian
Nor French, must have scribbled by guess-work.


No doubt he 's a rare man
Without knowing German
Translating his way up Parnassus,
And now still absurder
Fie meditates Murder
As you'll see in the trash he calls Tasso's.


But you've others his betters
The real men of letters
Your Orators—Critics—and Wits—
And I'll bet that your Journal
(Pray is it diurnal?)
Will pay with your luckiest hits.


You can make any loss up
With "Spence"[6] and his gossip,
A work which must surely succeed;
Then Queen Mary's Epistle-craft,[7]
With the new "Fytte" of "Whistlecraft,"
Must make people purchase and read.


Then you've General Gordon,[8]
Who girded his sword on,
To serve with a Muscovite Master,
And help him to polish
A nation so owlish,
They thought shaving their beards a disaster.


For the man, "poor and shrewd,"[9]
With whom you'd conclude
A compact without more delay,
Perhaps some such pen is
Still extant in Venice;
But please, Sir, to mention your pay.


Now tell me some news
Of your friends and the Muse,
Of the Bar, or the Gown, or the House,
From Canning, the tall wit,
To Wilmot,[10] the small wit,
Ward's creeping Companion and Louse,


Who 's so damnably bit
With fashion and Wit,
That he crawls on the surface like Vermin,
But an Insect in both,—
By his Intellect's growth,
Of what size you may quickly determine.[11]

Venice, January 8, 1818.
[First published, Letters and Journals, 1830, ii. 156, 157;
stanzas 3, 5, 6, 10, 11, first published, Letters, 1900,
iv. 191-193.]

  1. [The Fourth Canto of Childe Harold.]
  2. [Murray bought a half-share in Blackwood's Edinburgh Monthly Magazine in August, 1818, and remained its joint proprietor till December, 1819, when it became the property of William Blackwood. But perhaps the reference is to Byron's Swiss Journal of September, 1816.]
  3. [Henry Gaily Knight (1786-1846), who was a contemporary of Byron at Trinity College, Cambridge, was a poetaster, and, afterwards, a writer of works on architecture. His Oriental verses supplied Byron with a subject for more than one indifferent jeu d'esprit.]
  4. [Phrosyne, a Grecian tale, and Alashtar, an Arabian tale, were published in 1817. In a letter to Murray, September 4, 1817, Byron writes, "I have received safely, though tardily, the magnesia and tooth-powder, Phrosine and Alashtar. I shall clean my teeth with one, and wipe my shoes with the other."—Letters, 1901, iv.]
  5. [Sotheby's Farewell to Italy and Occasional Poems were published in 1818, as the record of a tour which he had taken in 1816-17 with his family, Professor Elmsley, and Dr. Playfair. For Byron's unfinished skit on Sotheby's Tour, see Letters, 1900, iv. Appendix V. pp. 452, 453.]
  6. [Observations, Anecdotes, and Characters of Books and Men, by the Rev. Joseph Spence, arranged, with notes, by the late Edmund Malone, Esq., 1 vol. 8vo, 1820.]
  7. [The Life of Mary Queen of Scots, by George Chalmers, 2 vols. 4to, 1819.]
  8. [Thomas Gordon (1788-1841) entered the Scots Greys in 1808. Two years later he visited Ali Pasha (see Letters, 1898, i. 246, note 1) in Albania, and travelled in Persia and Turkey in the East. From 1813 to 1815 he served in the Russian Army. He wrote a History of the Greek Revolution, 1832, 2 vols., but it does not appear that he was negotiating with Murray for the publication of any work at this period.]
  9. Vide your letter.
  10. [Probably Sir Robert John Wilmot (1784-1841) (afterwards Wilmot Horton), Byron's first cousin, who took a prominent part in the destruction of the "Memoirs," May 17, 1824. (For Lady Wilmot Horton, the original of "She walks in beauty," see Poetical Works, 1900, iii. 381, note 1.)]
  11. [Stanzas 12, 13, 14 cannot be published.]