Lord Byron's Poems

Bibliographical Note to English Bards and Scotch Reviewers

The MS. ('MS. M.') of the first draft of Byron's "Satire" (see Letter to Pigot, October 26, 1807) is now in Mr. Murray's possession. It is written on folio sheets paged 6-25, 28-41, and numbers 360 lines. Mutilations on pages 12, 13, 34, 35 account for the absence of ten additional lines.

After the publication of the January number of 'The Edinburgh Review' for 1808 (containing the critique on 'Hours of Idleness'), which was delayed till the end of February, Byron added a beginning and an ending to the original draft. The MSS. of these additions, which number ninety lines, are written on quarto sheets, and have been bound up with the folios. (Lines 1-16 are missing.) The poem, which with these and other additions had run up to 560 lines, was printed in book form (probably by Ridge of Newark), under the title of 'British Bards, A Satire'. "This Poem," writes Byron ['MSS. M.'], "was begun in October, 1807, in London, and at different intervals composed from that period till September, 1808, when it was completed at Newstead Abbey.--B., 1808." A date, 1808, is affixed to the last line. Only one copy is extant, that which was purchased, in 1867, from the executors of R.C. Dallas, by the Trustees of the British Museum. Even this copy has been mutilated. Pages 17, 18, which must have contained the first version of the attack on Jeffrey (see 'English Bards', p. 332, line 439, 'note' 2), have been torn out, and quarto proof-sheets in smaller type of lines 438-527, "Hail to immortal Jeffrey," etc., together with a quarto proof-sheet, in the same type as 'British Bards', containing lines 540-559, "Illustrious Holland," etc., have been inserted. Hobhouse's lines (first edition, lines 247-262), which are not in the original draft, are included in 'British Bards'. The insertion of the proofs increased the printed matter to 584 lines. After the completion of this revised version of 'British Bards', additions continued to be made. Marginal corrections and MS. fragments, bound up with 'British Bards', together with forty-four lines (lines 723-726, 819-858) which do not occur in MS. M., make up with the printed matter the 696 lines which were published in March, 1809, under the title of 'English Bards, and Scotch Reviewers'. The folio and quarto sheets in Mr. Murray's possession ('MS. M.') may be regarded as the MS. of 'British Bards; British Bards' (there are a few alterations, e.g. the substitution of lines 319-326, "Moravians, arise," etc., for the eight lines on Pratt, which are to be found in the folio MS., and are printed in 'British Bards'), with its accompanying MS. fragments, as the foundation of the text of the first edition of 'English Bards, and Scotch Reviewers'.

Between the first edition, published in March, and the second edition in October, 1809, the difference is even greater than between the first edition and 'British Bards'. The Preface was enlarged, and a postscript affixed to the text of the poem. Hobhouse's lines (first edition, 247-262) were omitted, and the following additional passages inserted, viz.: (i.) lines 1-96, "Still must I hear," etc.; (ii.) lines 129-142, "Thus saith the Preacher," etc.; (iii.) lines 363-417, "But if some new-born whim," etc.; (iv.) lines 638-706, "Or hail at once," etc.; (v.) lines 765-798, "When some brisk youth," etc.; (vi.) lines 859-880, "And here let Shee," etc.; (vii.) lines 949-960, "Yet what avails," etc.; (viii.) lines 973-980, "There, Clarke," etc.; (ix.) lines 1011-1070, "Then hapless Britain," etc. These additions number 370 lines, and, together with the 680 lines of the first edition (reduced from 696 by the omission of Hobhouse's contribution), make up the 1050 lines of the second and third editions, and the doubtful fourth edition of 1810. Of these additions, Nos. i., ii., iii., iv., vi., viii., ix. exist in MS., and are bound up with the folio MS. now in Mr. Murray's possession.

The third edition, which is, generally, dated 1810, is a replica of the second edition.

The first issue of the fourth edition, which appeared in 1810, is identical with the second and third editions. A second issue of the fourth edition, dated 1811, must have passed under Byron's own supervision. Lines 723, 724 are added, and lines 725, 726 are materially altered. The fourth edition of 1811 numbers 1052 lines.

The suppressed fifth edition, numbering 1070 lines (the copy in the British Museum has the title-page of the fourth edition; a second copy, in Mr. Murray's possession, has no title-page), varies from the fourth edition of 1811 by the addition of lines 97-102 and 528-539, and by some twenty-nine emendations of the text. Eighteen of these emendations were made by Byron in a copy of the fourth edition which belonged to Leigh Hunt. On another copy, in Mr. Murray's possession, Byron made nine emendations, of which six are identical with those in the Hunt copy, and three appear for the first time. It was in the latter volume that he inscribed his after-thoughts, which are dated "B. 1816."

For a complete collation of the five editions of 'English Bards, and Scotch Reviewers', and textual emendations in the two annotated volumes, and for a note on genuine and spurious copies of the first and other editions, see 'The Bibliography of the Poetical Works of Lord Byron', vol. vi.