So you and Mr. Foscolo, etc. want me to undertake what you call a ‘great work?’ an Epic Poem, I suppose, or some such pyramid. I’ll try no such thing; I hate tasks. And then “seven or eight years!” God send us all well this day three months, let alone years. If one’s years can’t be better employed than in sweating poesy, a man had better be a ditcher. And works, too! – is Childe Harold nothing? You have so many “divine” poems, is it nothing to have written a human one? without any of your worn-out machinery. Why, man, I could have spun the thoughts of the four cantos of that poem into twenty, had I wanted to book-make, and its passion into as many modern tragedies. Since you want length, you shall have enough of Juan, for I’ll make fifty cantos.
***Besides, I mean to write my best work in Italian, and it will take me nine years more thoroughly to master the language; and then if my fancy exists, and I exist too, I will try what I can do really. As to the estimation of the English which you talk of, let them calculate what it is worth, before they insult me with their insolent condescension.
I have not written for their pleasure. If they are pleased, it is that they chose to be so; I have never flattered their opinions, nor their pride; nor will I. Neither will I make “Ladies’ books” al dilettar le femine e la plebe. I have written from the fulness of my mind, from passion, from impulse, from many sweet motives, but not for their “sweet voices.”
I know the precise worth of popular applause, for few scribblers have had more of it; and if I chose to swerve into their paths, I could retain it, or resume it. But I neither love ye, nor fear ye; and though I buy with ye and sell with ye, I will neither eat with ye, drink with ye, nor pray with ye. They made me, without my search, a species of popular idol; they, without reason or judgment, beyond the caprice of their good pleasure, threw down the image from its pedestal: it was not broken with the fall, and they would, it seems, again replace it, – but they shall not.***
John Murray was Byron’s publisher and friend.
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Link will appear as Hanson, Marilee. "Lord Byron Letters To John Murray, Venice, April 6, 1819" https://englishhistory.net/byron/selected-letters/john-murray-venice-april-6-1819/, March 6, 2015