Captain Medwin, Friend of Byron and Shelley

Captain Medwin, Friend of Byron and Shelley

Captain Medwin, Friend of Byron and Shelley

Captain Medwin, Friend of Byron and Shelley

Excerpt

Thomas Medwin is perhaps one of the most outrageously misrepresented men in all literary history--and also, at times, one of the most exasperating. It is this quality which explains much of his later treatment by Byron and Shelley biographers, who, without important exception, beginning with Sir Egerton Brydges in 1825, Leigh Hunt in 1828, and John Galt and Thomas Moore in 1830, have plundered his books as primary sources of knowledge concerning Byron and Shelley.

Why has he so angered those who followed him? It is true that in Medwin Conversations of Byron and elsewhere he sometimes named persons, places, and dates with a lordly unconcern for what turned out later to be the facts; but one should remember that he, unlike his later critics, was a pioneer who wrote his books about Byron and Shelley without benefit of an adequate library or sufficient letters. Furthermore, charges of carelessness similar to those levelled at Medwin are seldom brought against Lady Blessington, who also reported the conversations of Byron at book length. Her relative immunity to such charges points up a chief difference between the minds and styles of the two writers and explains much. For Medwin had an instinctive affinity for the specific, concrete (and colorful) detail; thus his pages are much more easily proved wrong than those of Lady Blessington, with their smooth generalities and the relative absence of names and dates.

Medwin has continued to suffer also from the judgments of some of his contemporaries--notably, of Mary Shelley, ill and unhappily married, under whose roof Medwin was too long a . . .

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