Page:The Works of Lord Byron (ed. Coleridge, Prothero) - Volume 2.djvu/17

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xi
INTRODUCTION TO THE FIRST AND SECOND CANTOS.

for the forthcoming quarto," and has written to Murray, urging him on no account to show the MS. to Juvenal, that is, Gifford. But Gifford, as a matter of course, had been already consulted, had read the First Canto, and had advised Murray to publish the poem. Byron was, or pretended to be, furious; but the solid fact that Gifford had commended his work acted like a charm, and his fury subsided. On the fifth of September (Letters, 1898, ii. 24, note) he received from Murray the first proof, and by December 14 "the Pilgrimage was concluded," and all but the preface had been printed and seen through the press.

The original draft of the poem, which Byron took out of "the little trunk" and gave to Dallas, had undergone considerable alterations and modifications before this date. Both Dallas and Murray took exception to certain stanzas which, on personal, or patriotic, or religious considerations, were provocative and objectionable. They were apprehensive, not only for the sale of the book, but for the reputation of its author. Byron fought his ground inch by inch, but finally assented to a compromise. He was willing to cut out three stanzas on the Convention of Cintra, which had ceased to be a burning question, and four more stanzas at the end of the First Canto, which reflected on the Duke of Wellington, Lord Holland, and other persons of less note. A stanza on Beckford in the First Canto, and two stanzas in the second on Lord Elgin, Thomas Hope, and the "Dilettanti crew," were also omitted. Stanza ix. of the Second Canto, on the immortality of the soul, was recast, and "sure and certain" hopelessness exchanged for a pious, if hypothetical, aspiration. But with regard to the general tenor of his politics and metaphysics, Byron stood firm, and awaited the issue.

There were additions as well as omissions. The first stanza of the First Canto, stanzas xliii. and xc., which celebrate the battles of Albuera and Talavera; the stanzas to the memory of Charles Skinner Matthews, nos. xci., xcii.; and stanzas ix., xcv., xcvi. of the Second Canto, which record Byron's grief for the death of an unknown lover or friend, apparently (letter to Dallas, October 31, 1811) the mysterious Thyrza, and others (vide post, note on the MSS. of