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a different style of the drama; neither a servile following of the old drama, which is a grossly erroneous one, nor yet too French, like those who succeeded the older writers. It appears to me, that good English, and a severer approach to the rules, might combine something not dishonorable to our literature. I have also attempted to make a play without love. And there are neither rings, nor mistakes, nor starts, nor outrageous ranting villains, nor melodrame, in it. All this will prevent its popularity, but does not persuade me that it is therefore faulty. Whatever faults it has will arise from deficiency in the conduct, rather than in the conception, which is simple and severe.
(1821, February 16. Letter 872, to John
Murray, Vol. V., p. 243.)
I read Cenci—but, besides that I think the subject essentially undramatic, I am not an admirer of our old dramatists as models. I deny that the English have hitherto had a drama at all.
(1821, April 26. Letter 883, to Percy
Bysshe Shelley, Vol. V., p. 268.)
I trust that Sardanapalus will not be mistaken for a political play, which was so far from my intention, that I thought of nothing but Asiatic history. The Venetian play, too, is rigidly historical. My object has been to dramatise, like the Greeks (à modest phrase !) striking passages of history, as they did of history and mythology. You will find all this very unlike Shakespeare ; and so much the better in one
COMMON LANGUAGE AND SUPPRESSED PASSION 309
sense, for I look upon him to be the worst of models, though the most extraordinary of writers. It has been my object to be as simple and severe as Alfieri, and I have broken down the poetry as nearly as I could to common language.
(1821, July 14. Letter 911, to John Murray,
., p. 323.)
Your friend, like the public, is not aware, that my dramatic simplicity is studiously Greek, and must continue so: no reform ever succeeded at first. I admire the old English dramatists; but this is quite another field, and has nothing to do with theirs. I want to make a regular English drama, no matter whether for the Stage or not, which is not my object,but a mental theatre.
(1821, August 23. Letter 922, to John
Murray, Vol. V., p. 347.)
I am much mortified that Gifford don't take to my new dramas : to be sure, they are as opposite to the English drama as one thing can be to another; but I have a notion that, if understood, they will in time find favour (though not on the stage) with the reader. The Simplicity of plot is intentional, and the avoidance of rant also, as also the compression of the Speeches in the more severe situations. What I seek to show in The Foscaris is the suppressed passion, rather than the rant of the present day. For that matter-
“Nay, if thou'lt mouth,
I'll rant as well as thou”. would not be difficult, as I think I have shown in my
younger productions—not dramatic ones, to be sure. But, as I said before, I am mortified that Gifford don't like them ; but I see no remedy, our notions on the subject being so different. How is he? well, I hope : let me know. I regret his demur the more that he has been always my grand patron, and I know no praise which would compensate me in my own mind for his censure. I do not mind reviews, as I can work them at their own weapons.
Hobhouse, in his preface to “Rimini,” will probably be better able to explain my dramatic system, than I could do, as he is well acquainted with the whole thing. It is more upon the Alfieri School than the English.
(1821, September 20. Letter 937, to John
Murray, Vol. V., p. 371.)
BYRON'S VALUATION OF HIS FRIENDS
Scrope Berdmore Davies I do not know how the dens-descended [i.e. the dentist's descendant] Davies came to mention his having received a copy of my epistle to you, but I addressed him and you on the same evening, and being much incensed at the account I had received from Wallace, I communicated the contents to the Birdmore, though without any of that malice wherewith you charge me. I shall leave my card at Batts, and hope to see you in your progress to the North. I have lately discovered Scrope's genealogy to be ennobled by a collateral tie with the Beardmore, Chirurgeon and Dentist to Royalty, and that the town of Southwell contains cousins of Scrope's, who disowned them (I grieve to speak it) on visiting that city in my society.
How I found this out I will disclose, the first time “we three meet again.” But why did he conceal his lineage? “Ah, my dear H., it was cruel, it was insulting, it was unnecessary.
(1808, January 16. Letter 86, to John Cam
Hobhouse, Vol. I., p. 163.)
We have seen every thing but the mosques, which we are to view with a firman on Tuesday next. But of these and other sundries let H[obhouse] relate, with this proviso, that I am to be referred to for authenticity; and I beg leave to contradict all those things whereon he lays particular stress. But if he soars at any time into wit, I give you leave to applaud, because that is necessarily stolen from his fellowpilgrim. Tell Davies that Hobhouse has made excellent use of his best jokes in many of his Majesty's ships of war; but add, also, that I always took care to restore them to the right owner; in consequence of which he (Davies) is no less famous by water than by land, and reigns unrivalled in the cabin as in the “Cocoa Tree."
(1810, June 17. Letter 140, to Henry
Drury, Vol. I., p. 278.)
Davies has been here, and has invited me to Cambridge for a week in October, so that, peradventure, we may encounter glass to glass. His gaiety (death cannot mar it) has done me service; but, after all, ours was a hollow laughter.
(1811, August 22. Letter 168, to Francis
Hodgson, Vol. I., p. 339.)
I don't know what Scrope Davies meant by telling you I liked Children, I abominate the sight of them so much that I have always had the greatest respect for the character of Herod. But, as my house here is large enough for us all, we should go on very