British Fiction, 18001829

LEE, Harriet. Canterbury Tales. Volume the Fourth (1801)

Anecdotal Records

Letter from Lord Byron to John Cam Hobhouse.
[27?] Sept 1821.
[postscript] Could you without trouble rummage out from my papers the first (or half) act of [a] tragedy that I began in 1815.—called ‘Werner’—Make Murray cut out ‘the German’s tale’ in Lee’s Canterbury tales (the subject of the drama)—& send me both by the post […].
Source: Byron’s Letters and Journals, ed. by Leslie A. Marchand, 13 vols (London: Murray, 1973–94), VIII, 224.
Notes: Marchand notes that Werner is based on ‘Kruitzner, or the German’s Tale’ in this volume of Lee’s Canterbury Tales. [a] appears as given in the printed source. Day is conjectured by Marchand.

Journal Entry by Mary Shelley..
10 Nov 1821.
Read the Germans tale.
Source: The Journals of Mary Shelley 1814–1844, ed. by Paula R. Feldman & Diana Scott-Kilvert, 2 vols (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1987), I, 382.
Notes: Shelley is likely reading the tale because of Byron’s interest in it.

Conversations with Lord Byron, by Thomas Medwin.
[?1821].
I have two subjects that I think of writing on,—Miss Lee’s German tale ‘Kruitzner,’ and Pausanias.
Source: Medwin’s Conversations of Lord Byron, ed. by Ernest J. Lovell, jun. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1966), p. 123.
Notes: Date is conjectured from the printed source and contents.

Letter from Lord Byron to John Murray II.
23 Nov 1822.
You have sent me a copy of Werner, but without the preface: if you have published it without, you will have plunged me into a very disagreeable dilemma, because I shall be accused of plagiarism from Miss Lee’s German tale, whereas I have fully and freely acknowledged that the drama is entirely taken from the story.
Source: Byron’s Letters and Journals, ed. by Leslie A. Marchand, 13 vols (London: Murray, 1973–94), X, 40.

Conversations with Lord Byron, by Thomas Medwin.
[?1822].
‘I have finished,’ said he, ‘another play, which I mean to call ‘Werner.’ The story is taken from Miss Lee’s ‘Kruitzner.’ There are fine things in ‘The Canterbury Tales;’ but Miss Lee only wrote two of them: the others are the compositions of her sister, and are vastly inferior.’// ‘There is no tale of Scott’s finer than ‘The German’s Tale.’ I admired it when I was a boy, and have continued to like what I did then. This tale, I remember, particularly affected me. I could not help thinking of the authoress, who destroyed herself. I was very young when I finished a few scenes of a play founded on that story.
Source: Medwin’s Conversations of Lord Byron, ed. by Ernest J. Lovell, jun. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1966), p. 258.
Notes: Byron’s account of Lee’s suicide is untrue. She lived until 1851. Date is conjectured from the printed source.

Memoirs by Cyrus Redding.
1858.
The Miss Lee’s ‘Canterbury Tales’ I read in 1805, in a second edition, generally ascribed to Miss Harriet Lee. These tales were a joint production of Harriet and Sophia. The latter lived in Bath, during my first visit there, and died in 1851, wanting but little of being a century old.
Source: Cyrus Redding, Fifty Years’ Recollections, 3 vols (London: Skeet, 1858), I, 143.

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