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September 28 1812: Byron Continues to Scribble Away


On September 28, 1812, Lord Byron continues to work on the Address for the Opening of the Drury Lane sending two letters to Lord Holland and receiving one in return. Byron appears a little frustrated with Samuel Whitbread's changes. "I fear it will not bear much curtailing without “chasms in the sense," he writes. The letters are reproduced below. 

Byron to Lord Holland, from Cheltenham, September 28th 1812 
Septr. 28th. 1812

My dear Lord – I have altered the [last 3d line &] middle couplet so as I hope partly to do [away] W[hitbread]’s objection; I do think in the present state of the Stage, it had been unpardonable to pass over the horses & Miss Mudie & c. – as Betty is no longer a <anoth> boy – how can this be applied to him? – he is now to be judged as a man – if he acts still like a boy – the public will but be more ashamed of their blunder. – I have, you see, now taken it for granted that these things are reformed – I confess I wish that part of the address to stand – but if W[hitbread] is inexorable e’en let it go – I have also new cast the lines & softened the hint of future combustion. – and sent them off this morning. —

Will you have the Goodness to add or insert the <“>approved<”> alterations as they arrive. – They “come like Shadows so depart” occupy me, & I fear disturb you. – Do not let Mr. W[hitbread] put the address into Elliston’s hands till you have settled on these alterations. – I may think of more – but I have about done. – E. will think it too long – much depends on the speaking – I fear it will not bear much curtailing without “chasms in the sense. – –It is certainly too long in the reading, but if E. – exerts himself – such a favourite with the public will not be thought tedious. – I should think it so – if he were not to speak it. –yrs. ever my dear Ld. most obliged BN

P.S. – On looking again I doubt my idea of having obviated W[hitbread].’s objection to the other house allusion is a “non sequitur” but I wish to plead for this part, because the {thing} really is not to be passed over. – <As the> Many afterpieces in the Lyceum by the same company have already attacked this “Augean Stable” – & Johnson in his prologue against “Lun (the Harlequin manager Rich) “Hunt – “Mahomet”, &c. is surely a fair precedent –


Byron to Lord Holland, from Cheltenham, September 28th 1812 
Septr. 28th. 1812 –

My dear Lord –Will this do better? – the metaphor is more complete

Lava of the
“Till slowly ebbed the spent volcanic wave“
 And blackening Ashes marked the Muse’s grave

if not we will say “burning” wave, & instead of “burning clime” in the line some couplets back have“glowing”. 

–Is Whitbread determined to castrate all my cavalry lines? I don't see why t’other houseshould be spared, besides it is the public who ought to know better, & you recollect Johnson’s was against similar buffooneries [of Rich’s] but certes I am not Johnson. –Instead of “effects” say “labours” “degenerate” will do – will it? – Mr. Betty is no longer a babe therefore the lines cannot be personal. 

—Would this do?

the burning
“Till ebbed the Lava of that molten wave”

with “glowing dome” in case you prefer “burning” {added} to this “wave” <of> metaphorical. 

– The word “fiery pillar” was suggested by the “pillar of fire” in the book of Exodus which went before the Israelites through the red Sea. – I once thought of saying “Like Israel’s pillar” & making it a simile but I did not know – the great temptation was leaving the epithet “fiery” for the supplementary wave. – I want to work up that passage – as it is the only new ground a prologuizer can go upon. –

“This is the place where if a poet
“Shined in description he might show it.”

If I part with the possibility of a future conflagration we lessen the compliment to Shakespear, however we will <and> een mend it thus –

“Yes it shall be – the Magic of that Name
“That scorns the scythe of Time, the torch of Flame,
“On the same spot &c.

there – the deuce is in it, if that is not an improvement to W’s content. – Recollect, it is the “name” & not the magic that has a noble contempt for those same weapons, if it were the “Magic” – my metaphor would be somewhat of the maddest, so the “name” is the antecedent. – But my dear Lord – your patience is not quite so immortal, therefore – with many & sincere thanks I am yrs. evermost affectly.
Byron

P.S.   I foresee there will be charges of partiality in the papers – but you know I sent in no address – & glad both you & I must be that I did not – for in that case their plea had been plausible. – I doubt the Pit will be testy – but conscious Innocence a novel & but conscious Innocence a novel & pleasing sensation makes me bold.

Lord Holland to Byron, from Holland House, September 28th 1812

My Dear Lord - I am delighted with your diligence – & anxious to rival it Mine is an easier & less glorious task that of finding fault but with so goodhumoured an author as yourself not an unpleasant one – We think that beautiful as is your description of the fire you dwell too long on that subject not for composition but for policy for the feelings of the audience – for this reason there is a disposition toomit two of the descriptions & in point of policy that very striking couplet

“Shrank back appalled & troubled for their home”

would be sacrificed – but I own I would rather give up the “Lurid wave” for I have pondered over that expression till I think that it is almost inadmissible – fiery wave is a very violent poetical license (though not unwarranted by the sanction both of Virgil & Gray) for waving fire but when you come todescribe the fire itself but so indistinct a quality of it as luridness can wave <be> in any way stand forfire – I think this is what the Spaniards call Culte==smo which was invented by Gongora & consisted in calling every thing by any name but its own –

Perhaps I have so mangled that part of your address which <lamen> describes the bad effects of<your> bad taste in the publick that it would be better to strike out the whole of that topic contained in<M> M” copy from line 50 to line 61 – & in that case you might introduce four or six on the merits ofour theatre its safety & its peculiar excellencies for seeing & hearing – All ourcommittee & yet more proprietors & sharers exclaim, run down, & deprecate the word Humbler that &future flame must be altered – some say Brinsley is not known by that name – the whole of thatpassage wants a little perspicuity –Line 5 & 6 either in their original or altered state are not quite what they should be – I find mycolleagues don’t like 11 & 12 as much as I do but as I have already said some couplet must besacrificed in the first 24 – 

There is one just observation on [the] fourth line which I lament as I like theline – Can Shakespeare be said to have ceased to reign when he was acted constantly at Covent Garden? – When you have altered as much as you like <write> have the goodness to write out a long fair copy – Many many thanks for your kind expressions if any thing could add to my pleasure of reading Verses good in themselves & likely as I trust to add to your well acquiredreputation it would be your very obliging motive for writing them which I assure you I duly value –write to me if you please at Lord Lansdown’s Bowood Calne – 
Yrs Vll Holland

Plain prose on worldy affairs –Can you write to Mr Clarke the traveller to ask him to ask Sr Wm Rush to vote for Mr Westernin Essex?

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