All Things Byron
Welcome to our Byron Blog. Here you will find lively and engaging explorations of all things Byron, from fresh academic perspectives on key aspects of his literature and life, to modern responses to this most celebrated of poets, rebels and lovers.
As part of our Bicentennial Celebrations for the publication of Don Juan Cantos I and II (1819), Peter Gallagher will be contributing a special series of blog posts.
Blogs in this series will be included below, however they can also be found on a separate page: Why Isn’t Don Juan Read More?
Doubt & Murder: Cain’s Humanistic Liberation
Lord Byron produced Cain when “a wave of blasphemy prosecutions [had] swept through England”. As a controversial response to such a crisis, Byron dramatically revised the myth of Cain and shaped the first human murderer as a rebellious hero pursuing knowledge and the truth of life with great revolutionary passion against rigid religious control on free thoughts. After Cain had been published, Walter Scott thought it made Byron “certainly matched Milton on his own ground”.
The Comic Role of “Byron”
If there were such a competition, I would vote for Don Juan as the greatest comic poem in English. But some distinguished critics consider Byron a psychological light-weight; someone who won’t face up to (either) his internal turmoil and feelings of culpability (or, alternately) his inner ‘hollowness’ by which is meant, I guess, a lack of insight. That diminishes his fame, they say. I referred, last time, to Mathew Arnold, who esteemed Byron but who agreed with a remark of Goethe (not made about Don Juan, however): “the moment he begins to reflect; he is a child…”
Comic Mobility in Don Juan
Reading aloud, or listening to the poem, works well for Don Juan for two reasons. First, it’s a personal statement. The narrative, when there is one, never much conceals the narrator and, where there’s any danger it might, Byron steps forward to direct our attention back to himself in an aside or with a clever rhetorical trope. Voice is the poem’s medium, rather than meditation…
A Literary Odd Couple
Few poets in the pantheon of British literature are as un-Byronic as the dour, proper, sometimes oppressively high-minded laureate Alfred Lord Tennyson. So among the many (I hope pleasant) surprises in my new Tennyson study, Tennyson’s Poems: New Textual Parallels, from Open Book Publishers, are the thirty-plus instances in which phrases of as few as two or three and as many as several words in Byron poems turn up verbatim or very nearly so in poems of Tennyson.
Narrating Byron’s Amatory Epic
I’m preparing to publish (“free”) an annotated and narrated edition of Cantos I & II of Byron’s Don Juan on the bicentenary of their first London publication this July. But “why narration”? Aren’t there already several readings? Do we need another?
Don Juan: Sense From Sound
The way people read these days poses challenges for the publisher of poetry as I explained last time. It’s hard to show the verse of Don Juan’s verse in unbroken lines across the narrow confines of a phone screen. Unless, you choose a font size so small that it’s hard to read anyway….
Don Juan: Who needs it, who reads it?
Germaine Greer once observed that Don Juan is the greatest comic poem in English. It should be as popular, she thought, as Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso in Italy or, for that matter, Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin in Russia. True, in my view!
“And again”, boomed Simon Russell Beale, as he deftly propelled the pianist and Lord Byron downstage to take another bow… This was October 2018, at Cadogan Hall; Byron Angel & Outcast was my fifth dramatised concert. The proceeds were directed to Dr Vincent Khoo’s research at the Royal Marsden into advanced prostate cancer. The full story began two years before.
6th February 2019
Musician John Webster discusses his transformation of Byron’s experiences during the Greek War into a musical showpiece narrated by Benjamin Zephaniah.
Composer Brian Daubney describes the inspiration he finds in Byron’s poetry, and the circumstances which led to him composing three musical settings for Byron’s ‘She Walks in Beauty’, ‘When we Two Parted’ and ‘So We’ll No More Go A-Roving’. The music is available to listen to in the blog, along with the musical scores.
We begin a long way from Lord Byron. In fact, at the very dawn of European literary culture. I’m going to start with a brief passage from Homer’s Iliad, book 3. Helen, she of Troy, has just been looking from the battlements at the vast army of the Greeks below her on the Trojan plain […]