Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Byron and Compound Interest

[To Sir Walter Scott from Lord Byron]

Pisa, January 12, 1822.

My Dear Sir Walter,-- I need not say how grateful I am for your letter, but I must own my ingratitude in not having written to you again long ago. Since I left England (and it is not for all the usual term of transportation) I have scribbled to five hundred blockheads on business, etc., without difficulty, though with no great pleasure; and yet, with the notion of addressing you a hundred times in my head, and always in my heart, I have not done what I ought to have done. . .

I owe to you far more than the usual obligation for the courtesies of literature and common friendship--for you went out of your way in 1817 to do me a service, when it required not merely kindness, but courage to do so: to have been recorded by you in such a manner would have been a proud memorial at any time; but at such a time, when "all the world and his wife," (or rather mine) as the proverb goes, were trying to trample upon me, was something still higher to my self-esteem. I allude to the "Quarterly Review" of the 3rd C[anto] of C[hild]e H[arol]d which Murray told me was written by you,--and, indeed, I should have known it without his information, as there could not be two who could and would have done this at the time. Had it been a common criticism however eloquent or panegyrical-- I should have felt pleased, undoubtedly, and grateful, but not to the extent which the extraordinary good-heartedness of the whole proceeding must induce in any mind capable of such sensations. The very tardiness of this acknowledgement will, at least, show that I have not forgotten the obligation; and I can assure you that my sense of it has been out at compound interest during the delay. . . .

January 27th 1822

I delayed till now concluding in the hope that I should have got The Pirate, who is under way for me, but has not yet hove in sight. I hear that your daughter is married, and I suppose by this time you are half a grandfather--a young one, by the way. I have heard great things of Mrs. Lockhart's personal and mental charms and much good of her Lord. That you may live to see as many novel Scotts as there are Scot's novels, is the very bad pun, but sincere wish of, --Yours Ever most affectionately,

P.S. --Why don't you take a turn in Italy? You would find yourself as well-known and as welcome as in the Highlands among the natives. As for the English, you would be with them as in London; and I need not add, that I would be delighted to see you again--which is far more than I shall ever feel or say for England, or (with a few exceptions "of kith, kin, and allies") any thing that it contains. But my "heart warms to the Tartan," or to anything of Scotland which reminds me of Aberdeen and other parts not so far from the Highlands or that town (about Invercauld and Braemar) where I was sent to drink goat's fey in 1795-96 on a threatened decline after the scarlet fever. But I am gossiping, so good night, and the Gods be with your dreams!

Pray, present my respects to Lady Scott, who may perhaps recollect having seen me in town in 1815.

I see that one of your supporters (for like Sir Hildebrand,* I am fond of Guillim) is a Mermaid. It is my crest too, and with precisely the same curl of tail. There's concatenation for you! I am building a little cutter at Genoa, to go a' cruising in the Summer. I know you like the sea too.

*In Rob Roy

-from The Private Letter-Books of Sir Walter Scott edited by Wilfred Partington (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1930) p. 188-190.

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