If you would like to suggest a book for inclusion on this page, please get in touch via our contacts page or email our Director, Dr Emily Paterson-Morgan, via contact@thebyronsociety.com

The Sour Fruit. Lord Byron, Love & Sex by Vincenzo Patanè

Byron’s emotional and erotic life, which he indulged with an unstoppable energy, is a key element in understanding his powerful and passionate personality, as well as the society of his day, which was scandalised by his behaviour even while being conquered by his extraordinary charm. The Sour Fruit. Lord Byron, Love & Sex – translated by John Francis Phillimore from the Italian edition I frutti acerbi. Lord Byron, gli amori & il sesso, Venice, Cicero, 2016 – looks at the poet’s now generally acknowledged bisexuality in all its aspects, from his fleeting liaisons to his love-affairs, female (his half-sister Augusta, Caroline Lamb and Teresa Guiccioli) and male (John Edleston, Nicolo Giraud and Loukas Chalandritsanos).

The book’s original approach provides unusual and fascinating insights, notably into Byron’s homosexuality, hitherto relatively unexplored, and reveals a more truthful picture of the poet. Byron was strongly attracted to boys, who are referred to in Don Juan as ‘sour fruit’. In his adolescence he had fallen for aristocratic contemporaries but would later be attracted to boys of a lower social station. He had several same-sex experiences in England, encouraged by the circle he frequented at Cambridge, particularly his friend Matthews, as well as during his Grand Tour, during which he was able to freely live out behaviours frowned on at home.

An appended chapter examines Don Leon, an anonymous work purporting to be by Byron himself and salaciously recounting his love-life, which was first published some forty years after his death and has been on more than one occasion banned for obscenity.

For more details and to purchase the book click here.

Beethoven: The Reventless Revolutionary by John Clubbe

Moving to Vienna at the age of twenty-one to study with Haydn, Beethoven gained renown as a brilliant pianist and innovative composer. In that conservative city, capital of the Hapsburg empire, authorities were ever watchful to curtail and punish overt displays of radical political views. Nevertheless, Beethoven avidly followed the meteoric rise of Napolean. John Clubbe illuminates Beethoven as a lifelong revolutionary through his compositions, portraits and writings, and by setting him alongside major cultural figures of the time such as Schiller, Goethe, Byron, Chateaubriand and Goya.  For more details and to purchase the book click here.

His Master’s Reflection: Travels with John Polidori, Lord Byron’s Doctor and Author of “The Vampyre“, by Andrew and Suzanne Edwards 

Qualifying as a doctor in 1815 at the tender age of nineteen, John Polidori was employed less than a year later by the poet, Lord Byron, as his travelling physician. The precocious medic was seemingly destined for a bright future that would enable him to combine his profession with a love of literature. In His Master’s Reflection, the authors follow Polidori’s footsteps as he accompanies Byron through Europe to Switzerland where they eventually meet the Shelleys and Claire Clairmont. Fulfilling his father’s prophecy, the fateful summer will prove to have a devastating impact on Polidori’s life and legacy.

Byron’s keen wit and elevated status would leave the sensitive doctor feeling isolated and undervalued. Fuelled by acerbic comments from the poet’s friends, Byron finally releases Polidori from his contract, leaving the penniless medic to wander over the Alps on foot to Italy, his father’s homeland. Despite attempts at establishing himself as a doctor to the expatriate community, he has to admit defeat and return to England. Still harbouring literary ambitions, his one chance at fame is cruelly denied when The Vampyre, the story he had written in Geneva, is attributed to Byron. Gossip and retelling of events have cast Polidori in the role of a petulant plagiarist. Concussion from a riding accident deeply affected Polidori’s temperament and behaviour, leaving questions surrounding his death, which history has recorded as suicide by prussic acid, despite the coroner’s verdict of ‘visitation of God’. The authors delve into his final years in an attempt to redress the balance. The handsome Polidori was more than just his master’s reflection.

For more details and to purchase the book click here.

Claire’s Last Secret by Marty Ambrose

This is a work of historical fiction by one of our Byron Society members. The first book of a trilogy, Claire’s Last Secret is set in Florence in 1873. Claire Clairmont—the last survivor of the “haunted summer” Byron/Shelley circle is living out her final years in genteel poverty, with only the memories of her lost youth.  Just at her moment of greatest despair, the appearance of British tourist, William Michael Rossetti, brings hope that she may be able to sell some of her memorabilia to earn enough cash to support her and her niece/companion, Paula. But Rossetti’s presence in Florence seems to begin a cycle of events that links with the summer of 1816 when Claire conceived an ill-fated child with George Gordon, 

Lord Byron, when Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein, and when four tempestuous lives came together around a tragic death.  As Claire begins to unravel the truth, she has to go back to that summer of passion and lost dreams to discover the identity of her ancient enemy.

For more details and to purchase the book click here.

Kindred Brutes: Animals in Romantic Period Writing by Dr Christine Kenyon Jones

Exploring the significance of animals in Romantic-period writing, this new study shows how in this period they were seen as both newly different from humankind (subjects in their own right, rather than simply humanity’s tools or adjuncts) and also as newly similar, with the ability to feel and perhaps to think like human beings. Approaches to animals are reviewed in a wide range of the period’s literary work (in particular, that of Byron, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Keats, Southey, Clare and Blake). 

Poetry and other literary work are discussed in relation to discourses about animals in various contemporary cultural contexts, including children’s books, parliamentary debates, vegetarian theses, encyclopaedias and early theories about evolution. The study introduces animals to the discussions about ecocriticism and environmentalism in Romantic-period writing by complicating the concept of ‘Nature’, and it also contributes to the debates about politics and the body in this period. It demonstrates the rich variety of thinking about animals in the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries, and it challenges the exclusion of literary writing from some recent multi-disciplinary debates about animals, by exploring the literary roots of many metaphors about and attitudes to animals in our current thinking. Kindred Brutes constitutes a genuinely original and substantial contribution both to Romantic-period writing and to general debates about animals and the body.

More Details and Purchasing Here.

Dear Mr Murray Letters to a Gentleman Publisher selected and edited by David McClay

Published 20th October 2018

The publishing house of John Murray was founded in Fleet Street in 1768 and remained a family firm over seven generations. A celebration of John Murray Publishers 250th anniversary this year, Dear Mr Murray is a collection of letters from the Publisher’s archive that make up some of literature’s most significant moments, including:

• Jane Austen complaining about the printing delay of a specially bound copy of Emma she wants to dedicate to the Prince Regent. • George Bernard Shaw responding to John Murray’s rejection of Man and Superman. • A literary adviser who recommends publication of Darwin’s observations on pigeons rather than On the Origin of Species. • William Makepeace Thackeray apologising for his bad behaviour at a dinner. • Adrian Conan Doyle challenging Harold Nicolson to a duel; Nicolson was purported to have insulted Arthur Conan Doyle in a review. • Lord Byron furious with John Murray for being duped by his former girlfriend – Lady Caroline Lamb – who forged his signature to obtain a miniature Byron had intended for his mistress.

Despite the incredible number of letters that were retained by the Murray family, some failed to arrive, others were delayed and some barely survived, but longevity added to the reputation and fame of John Murray and a correspondent in Canada who addressed his letter merely to ‘John Murray, The World-wide famous Book & Publishing House, London, England’ as early as 1932 could be confident that his letter would arrive.

For more details and to purchase the book contact Alice.herbert@hodder.co.uk

Sprung From Divine Insanity: The Harmonious Madness of Byron, Keats and Shelley by Andrew Keanie

Byron, Keats and Shelley wrote some of the most expressive and incisive poetry we have known, but they were held in contempt by placemen and pundits. The poets saw the dominating social and political conditions of modern times making a ghost of the good life.

In Andrew Keanie’s exploration of the legacy of the later Romantics, we see the full challenge posed by Byron, Keats and Shelley to the rigid and life-denying orthodoxies underpinning an unjust world where words are bled to powerlessness and looked straight through by tyrants and their messengers as easily as non-existent ghosts.

The poets’ work was nothing less than an inspiring refusal to accept the prevailing wrongness of their world. Rather than being ‘mad, bad and dangerous to know’ themselves, the Romantics were pressurised into poetry by the madness, badness and dangerousness of the world in which they found themselves. It is a legacy, Andrew Keanie vividly demonstrates, which resonates down to the present day.

For more details and to purchase the book click here.

Byron and the Sea-Green Isle by Nicky Gayle

This study of Byron’s last complete long poem, the comparatively neglected The Island, is the first to devote a whole book to the examination, contextualization and motivation of both the poetry and its poet. It is much more than just a monograph, however; aside from biographical considerations, it illumines aspects of study that embrace feminism, racial politics and social considerations in relation to Polynesian island society, all of which are contrasted with the loose anarchy of an eighteenth century group of British mutineers.

Two historical contexts – the infamous 1789 mutiny on the Bounty and Byron’s life in the year that led up to the poem’s composition – serve as an extended prelude to a deep analysis of the major symbols and characters in the poem.

Its main chapters range beyond The Island, conducting a literary conversation with Shakespeare, Pope, 18th-century writers of memoirs and nautical sea history, classical authors and even Chinese poets, as well as other Romantic poets. Consideration is given to aspects of racial and feminist theory in relation to the poem’s extraordinary central female character; in particular there is a focus on her promotion of the poem’s happy ending, one that is quite unique in Byron’s oeuvre.

For more details and to purchase the book click here.

Return of the Gift, poems by Michael O’Neill

Michael O’Neill’s Return of the Gift is a volume about what is given and what is lost.

Writing unsentimentally and with insight about powerful subjects such as the death of his mother, caring for his father, and his own recent diagnosis of cancer, the poet speaks of and to his personal and historical life and also explores themes of elegy and friendship. Memories are woven vividly throughout a thematically varied yet coherent collection, in which a witty and moving pleasure in living and language is always to the fore.

For more details and to purchase the book click here.

Essays on Byron in Honour of Dr Peter Cochran, Breaking the Mould, edited by Malcolm Kelsall, Peter Graham, & Mirka Horová

Byron wrote that he was “born for opposition”. This collection of essays takes Byron at his word and explores ways in which he challenged received opinion in his lifetime. The essays also challenge commonplace attitudes in criticism of Byron today. In this, the volume honours the remarkable range of work of the late Dr Peter Cochran.

The matters covered here are Byron’s poetics, his ideology, and the principles and practice of editing his texts. In all, this book gathers original contributions from sixteen international scholars and friends of Peter Cochran.

The accessible, engaging style makes their work suitable for all readers of Byron, as well as undergraduates and professional academics.

For more details and to purchase the book, click here.

Byron and Italy, edited by Alan Rawes & Diego Saglia

Byron in Italy – Venetian debauchery, Roman sight-seeing, revolution, horse-riding and swimming, sword-brandishing and pistol-shooting, the poet’s ‘last attachment’ – forms part of the fabric of Romantic mythology. Yet Byron’s time in Italy was crucial to his development as a writer, to Italy’s sense of itself as a nation, to Europe’s perceptions of national identity and to the evolution of Romanticism across Europe. In this volume, Byron scholars from Britain, Europe and beyond re-assess the topic of ‘Byron and Italy’ in all its richness and complexity. They consider Byron’s relationship to Italian literature, people, geography, art, religion and politics, and discuss his navigations between British and Italian identities.

For more details and to purchase the book, click here.