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  • Byron, Caroline Lamb, and Samuel Rogers:Unpublished Passages from Moore's Letters
  • Jeffery Vail (bio)

The Longman Collection at the University of Reading contains the manuscripts of hundreds of letters of Thomas Moore that were published in Memoirs, Journal, and Correspondence of Thomas Moore (8 vols, London: Longmans, 1853–56), edited by Moore's friend Lord John Russell. Sadly, these manuscripts are damaged and badly faded, having survived a fire on 29 December 1940 that destroyed most of the correspondence files of the Longmans firm. Many are readable only with the use of ultraviolet light, and the paper on which they are written has become extremely fragile. Wilfred S. Dowden did not consult these damaged original manuscripts when editing his 1964 Letters of Thomas Moore, opting instead to simply reprint Russell's texts of the letters.

During the 1980s, an archivist at the University of Reading Special Collections, Michael Bott, transcribed all of the original manuscript letters. His transcriptions, available in two large volumes held by the Longman Collection, are especially valuable because Russell omitted a large number of passages from his texts of Moore's letters. In general, Russell excised portions of the letters that he believed might reflect particularly badly on Moore, or that were potentially embarrassing for other persons mentioned, or that dealt with medical problems or conditions that Victorian readers might have felt were of too private or indelicate a nature for public consumption. Since Dowden reprinted Russell's texts of the letters in his edition, the unexpurgated versions of the letters have still never been published, and are only available in the forms of the actual damaged manuscripts and Bott's two volumes of transcriptions.1

Two letters from Moore in the Longman Collection feature interesting deleted passages concerning Byron that have never been published. Both letters appear in expurgated form in Russell and Dowden, with no indication to the reader that any material has been omitted. Guy Leonard Baxter and Caroline Benson at the University of Reading Special Collections kindly assisted me by having photographs made of the manuscripts of these two letters. The photographs have enabled me to check Bott's transcriptions for errors, except in the case of those passages where the faintness of the ink makes this impossible. Bott is accurate for the most part, but unfortunately he occasionally misreads Moore's handwriting, omits a punctuation mark, or commits a similar minor error. For instance, in Letter 2, Bott reads 'leagued' for 'teazed', and [End Page 63] instead of 'set to' gives 'sat'. In letter 1, there are a few instances in which Moore has inserted words or phrases in superscript that do not appear in Bott's transcription, but this may be because they are as unreadable in manuscript as they are in the photographs. Given that I have had to work from photographs and not the originals, I cannot present my own complete transcriptions of the letters; instead, I present below Michael Bott's transcriptions, but with those corrections that I have been able to make given in curly brackets. The passages rendered in bold are those that are missing from Russell's and Dowden's editions.

The first of the two deleted passages in the letter to Moore's friend Mary Godfrey mentions the famous episode of Caroline Lamb cutting herself at Lady Heathcote's ball in reaction to a snub from Byron.2 Moore, who was present for Byron's first substantial conversation with Caroline, at Melbourne House on 28 March 1812, cynically remarks on their scandalous affair and mentions a hitherto unknown long letter that he had received from her, apparently regarding her adultery. Moore's tongue-in-cheek remark that Caroline's husband ought to treat her like the murdered heroine of The Giaour should be understood as a flippant expression of exasperation at the flagrant nature of her behaviour rather than any more serious kind of reprehension: having been welcomed into the highest echelons of London society since 1800, Moore was quite familiar with the sexual misbehaviour and infidelities of the Regency haut ton, and certainly no prude. The entire deleted passage has been crossed out in the manuscript, presumably by Russell.

The second...


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