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September 29 1812: Lord Holland and the Stage

On September 29, 1812, Lord Holland and Lord Byron continue to exchanges letters with respect to the Address for the Opening of the Drury Lane Theatre.  Lord Holland is moved by Byron's poetry to a discuss how the stage can preserve the language but also allow for "conversing with past times". He writes:

The stage (with the exception of the church by the bye) is the only place where the same things are recited publicly to different ages & it becomes thus not only a receptacle to preserve the language but a sort of organ for conversing with past times past Characters and past manners – An old play especially if more time had actually elapsed since those which are our models were written, would produce on many a reflecting Spectator much of that delusion which you have so beautifully & truly described as arising from the view of the remains of antiquity – What would one not give to hear Sophocles recited in the same accent tone & action & with the same accompaniments as Pericles did – Now as long as English lasts & an English stage is preserved uninterrupted, so long will the audience hear what Queen Elizabeth & the wits of Charles the second and Queen Anne’s time heard. 
The two letters are reproduced below.

From Lord Holland to Byron, from Holland House, September 29th 1812: 

If in correcting the lines on Menander you could in any delicate & [  ] way contrive to remind the audience that he <celebrated> {lamented} the very event you have been describing with so much feeling, the loss of Garrick, I think it would be a happy turn & {a} striking way of connecting your enumeration of Genius gifted patriarchs – By the bye I wonder you did not include the “Monody” in your list of good poems <from> {for} <thre/>theatrical presentation – if it is a little too studied & ambitious it is surely a beautiful <thing> poem & almost perfect in its kind though unquestionably too long – 

Your four lines which I have quoted on the other side on the identity of the spirit stage & plays have suggested to me a remark on the stage of any country which I do not recollect to have seen & which nevertheless is true & susceptible if there were time of being clothed in a poetical dress & fitted for a prologue on such an occasion – The stage (with the exception of the church by the bye) is the only place where the same things are recited publickly to different ages & it becomes thus not only a receptacle to preserve the language but a sort of organ for conversing with past times past Characters and past manners – An old play especially if more time had actually elapsed since those which are our models were written, would produce on many a reflecting Spectator much of that delusion which you have so beautifully & truly described as arising from the view of the remains of antiquity – What would one not give to hear Sophocles recited in the same accent tone & action & with the same accompaniments as Pericles did – 

Now as long as English lasts & an English stage is preserved uninterrupted, so long will the audience hear what Queen Elizabeth & the wits of Charles the second and Qn Anne’s time heard – I do not know whether I <express myself> explain myself in prose & therefore <do> {am} not so unreasonable as to expect to be construed in verse, <especially xxxxx by> but as the only amiable <part feature in superstitious rites & ceremonies & even establishments, is the sort of mysterious approximation which they produce between <distant or> remote ages it is pleasant at least to reflect that in a continued & uninterrupted exhibition of the same dramatic works in the same language some classical intercourse may be preserved through us between our ancestors & our descendants – 

Fortunately for you the hour of putting in the letters has arrived & I must close this long prose which is only good for this, that if you take the trouble to read it <<you will>> you will> <put> <find it extremely> you will find nothing in it that can divert your mind from the occupation of correcting your address – One of the great objects of revision in all works & especially verse is additional perspicuity & one of the ways of being perspicuous is to think a great deal on the subject – nothing but the conviction that the more you think it over the better you will make it can justify my troubling you so much at length with my own conscience & my taking such great liberties as I have done with what is so good – 

I doubt whether I shall not take Ld Jersey’s at Middleton in (or rather out of) may way to town & if you would meet me there, that would decide me – we shall not be above 35 miles apart when I am at Bowood – Pray write & tell me whether you could meet me with the copy quite revised & not exceeding 76 lines on Saturday at Tetbury – to breakfast or to what you will – As an invalid & a Cheltenham water drinker you must have time to return by daylight – Yrs again & again 
Vll Holland

Byron to Lord Holland, from Cheltenham, September 29th 1812: 
Septr. 29th.  

My dear Lord –  Shakespeare certainly ceased to reign in one of his Kingdoms, as George 3d. did in America, & George 4th. may in Ireland. – now we have nothing to do out of our own realms, and when the monarchy was gone, his majesty had but a barren sceptre – I have cut away you will see, & altered, but make it what you please – only I do implore for my own gratification one lash on those accursed quadrupeds – a “long shot Sir Lucius if you love Me.

 – I have altered wave &c. & the fire & so forth for the timid. – – Let me hear from you when convenient & believe me 

ever yr. obliged 
B.

P.S. Do let that stand – & cut out elsewhere. – I shall choak if we must overlook their d – d menagerie. 

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