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Byron at Sixty-Five

Edwin Morgan, 8 January 1987

... The rumour of my death has long abated. The Greeks still love me, but I don’t love Greeks Except for one – or two; I must be fated To wander and to change; when the mast creaks I smell the salt and know my soul unsated Until it finds the language no man speaks. And what is that? some simpleton demands Who’s never heard the seething of the sands ...

You Have Never Written Better

Benjamin Markovits: Byron’s Editor, 20 March 2008

The Letters of John Murray to Lord Byron 
edited by Andrew Nicholson.
Liverpool, 576 pp., £25, June 2007, 978 1 84631 069 0
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... The relationship between Byron and his editor John Murray lasted a little over ten years. It began in March 1812 with the publication of Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, which made Byron’s name. (‘I awoke one morning and found myself famous,’ he famously wrote, or is said to have written ...

Stag at Bay

Adam Phillips: Byron in Geneva, 25 August 2011

Byron in Geneva: That Summer of 1816 
by David Ellis.
Liverpool, 189 pp., £25, September 2011, 978 1 84631 643 2
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... Byron looked at his own tumultuous life with an Enlightenment gaze: empirical, sceptical, agnostic, hedonistic. He was an ironic rationalist, who, like all rationalists, had an irrational personal history. He was interested in what, if anything, the two things – the tumultuous life and the Enlightenment gaze – might say about each other, but he never assumed that one could be used to explain the other, or that explanation could ever be sufficient; as he has Cain say, ‘I look/Around a world where I seem nothing, with/Thoughts which arise within me, as if they/Could master all things ...

Settling accounts

Keith Walker, 15 May 1980

‘A heart for every fate’: Byron’s Letters and Journals, Vol. 10, 1822-1823 
edited by Leslie Marchand.
Murray, 239 pp., £8.95, March 1980, 0 7195 3670 7
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... A heart for every fate’: the title Marchand has chosen, from the enchanting lyric Byron wrote to Thomas Moore in 1817, doesn’t seem quite appropriate. It would have been better to borrow Doris Langley Moore’s Lord Byron: Accounts Rendered, for in these months in Genoa (October 1822 – June 1823) Byron was settling his accounts with his creditors, with his public, with his publisher John Murray, with his mistress, and making arrangements to settle his accounts with life and fame ...

Hail, Muse!

Seamus Perry: Byron v. Shelley, 6 February 2003

The Making of the Poets: Byron and Shelley in Their Time 
by Ian Gilmour.
Chatto, 410 pp., £25, June 2002, 0 7011 7110 3
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Byron and Romanticism 
by Jerome McGann.
Cambridge, 321 pp., £47.50, August 2002, 0 521 80958 4
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... Ian Gilmour’s deft and learned book is concerned with the lives of Byron and Shelley up to the morning on which Byron woke up and found himself famous. The poets weren’t to meet for another four years, so Gilmour isn’t telling the history of their acquaintance but its prehistory; and not the least of his book’s many virtues is the way it makes you realise what an odd combination they made ...

Success

Marilyn Butler, 18 November 1982

The Trouble of an Index: Byron’s Letters and Journals, Vol. XII 
edited by Leslie Marchand.
Murray, 166 pp., £15, May 1982, 0 7195 3885 8
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Lord ByronSelected Letters and Journals 
edited by Leslie Marchand.
Murray, 404 pp., £12.50, October 1982, 0 7195 3974 9
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Byron 
by Frederic Raphael.
Thames and Hudson, 224 pp., £8.95, July 1982, 0 500 01278 4
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Byron’s Political and Cultural Influence in 19th-Century Europe: A Symposium 
edited by Paul Graham Trueblood.
Macmillan, 210 pp., £15, April 1981, 0 333 29389 4
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Byron and Joyce through Homer 
by Hermione de Almeida.
Macmillan, 233 pp., £15, October 1982, 0 333 30072 6
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ByronA Poet Before His Public 
by Philip Martin.
Cambridge, 253 pp., £18.50, July 1982, 0 521 24186 3
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... Byron is one of the first international successes of the literature industry. From the Renaissance on, sculptors and painters could get into the big money in any of the richer economies of Europe; throughout the 18th century, musicians poured out of Germany, Austria and Italy. But writers, because of the language barrier, had to wait for a large leisured readership, as well as for the late 18th-century boom in the printed word, which included among its manifestations the rise of the literary review ...

Death in Greece

Marilyn Butler, 17 September 1981

Byron’s Letter and Journals. Vol. XI: For Freedom’s Battle 
edited by Leslie Marchand.
Murray, 243 pp., £11.50, April 1981, 0 7195 3792 4
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ByronThe Complete Poetical Works 
edited by Jerome McGann.
Oxford, 464 pp., £35, October 1980, 0 19 811890 2
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Red Shelley 
by Paul Foot.
Sidgwick, 293 pp., £12.95, May 1981, 0 283 98679 4
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Ugo Foscolo, Poet of Exile 
by Glauco Cambon.
Princeton, 360 pp., £15, September 1980, 0 691 06424 5
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... We can know Byron better than anyone has ever known him. Leslie Marchand’s edition of the Letters and Journals, which is far more extensive than any previous collection, has now covered Byron’s whole life. J.J. McGann’s complete edition of the poems is proceeding expeditiously: the three volumes to date include all the poems written before Byron left England in 1816, and Volume II has the whole of the masterpiece Childe Harold, including Cantos III and IV, which were written in exile in 1816 and 1818 ...

Little Mania

Ian Gilmour: The disgraceful Lady Caroline Lamb, 19 May 2005

Lady Caroline Lamb 
by Paul Douglass.
Palgrave, 354 pp., £16.99, December 2004, 1 4039 6605 2
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... termagant than ever’. Such disparagement of the woman, who in 1812 had a notorious affair with Byron and was married to a future prime minister, was not confined to the Lamb family. Metternich’s mistress, Princess Lieven, referred to ‘that madwoman Lady Caroline Lamb’, and Lord and Lady Holland compared her to typhus, while within Caroline’s own ...

On Top of Everything

Thomas Jones: Byron, 16 September 1999

ByronChild of Passion, Fool of Fame 
by Benita Eisler.
Hamish Hamilton, 835 pp., £25, June 1999, 0 241 13260 6
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... yet once more! And the waves bound beneath me as a steed That knows his rider. On 25 April 1816, Byron set out from Dover for the Continent, never to return to England. Four days earlier, he had signed the separation papers that put an end to what Benita Eisler calls ‘one of the most infamously wretched marriages in history’. Annabella Milbanke ...

Gobblebook

Rosemary Hill: Unhappy Ever After, 21 June 2018

In Byron’s Wake: The Turbulent Lives of Lord Byron’s Wife and Daughter 
by Miranda Seymour.
Simon and Schuster, 560 pp., £25, March 2018, 978 1 4711 3857 7
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Ada Lovelace: The Making of a Computer Scientist 
by Christopher Hollings, Ursula Martin and Adrian Rice.
Bodleian, 128 pp., £20, April 2018, 978 1 85124 488 1
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... to a tragedy. If any couple bore out that maxim it was Annabella Milbanke and George Gordon Byron. The ‘happy’ chapter lasted barely 24 hours, the ‘ever after’ is with us still. Even the clergyman who performed the service was soon disillusioned. The Rev. Thomas Noel had been promised some ‘substantial’ token of the groom’s ...

Hidden Consequences

John Mullan: Byron, 6 November 2003

ByronLife and Legend 
by Fiona MacCarthy.
Faber, 674 pp., £9.99, November 2003, 0 571 17997 5
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... The trailer for the recent BBC dramatisation of Byron’s life made no bones about the poet’s appeal. ‘Everything you’ve ever heard about him is true,’ the husky female voice-over promised. Here was a story that would excite us because of what we already thought we knew. Judging by the immediate critical response to Fiona MacCarthy’s biography, the appetite for Byron’s life is indeed sharpened by all the stories we already have ...

The Man Who Never Glared

John Pemble: Disraeli, 5 December 2013

Disraeli: or, The Two Lives 
by Douglas Hurd and Edward Young.
Orion, 320 pp., £20, July 2013, 978 0 297 86097 6
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The Great Rivalry: Gladstone and Disraeli 
by Dick Leonard.
I.B. Tauris, 226 pp., £22.50, June 2013, 978 1 84885 925 8
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Disraeli: The Romance of Politics 
by Robert O’Kell.
Toronto, 595 pp., £66.99, February 2013, 978 1 4426 4459 5
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... with India. You can’t beat that, it’s better than Wyatt Earp.’ And it’s as good as Lord Byron. Take the life of Disraeli, for ‘novelist’ read ‘poet’, and you’ve got an epic about what happened to Byron after he’d recovered from that deadly fever at Missolonghi. Having fought for Greek independence, he ...

Suicidal Piston Device

Susan Eilenberg: Being Lord Byron, 5 April 2007

Imposture 
by Benjamin Markovits.
Faber, 200 pp., £10.99, January 2007, 978 0 571 23332 8
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... error and Will has his credit again. Describe all possible values for that credit. Let Tom be Lord Byron. Let Will be Dr Polidori. Let the deed of errant authorship be the writing of The Vampyre (1819). Do the values for Polidori converge or diverge? If the sum of those values exists, is it real, irrational, imaginary? In April 1819 there arrived in London a ...

Paralysing posterity

Dan Jacobson, 20 June 1985

Byron and Greek Love: Homophobia in 19th-Century England 
by Louis Crompton.
Faber, 419 pp., £17.50, May 1985, 0 571 13597 8
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... for the Modern Languages. The ‘Greek Love’ which preoccupies him is not to be confused with Byron’s philhellenism – with his denunciations of those Scots and Englishmen who had carried back to Britain whatever Greek antiquities they could lay their hands on, and his final fatal espousing of the cause of securing the independence of Greece from ...

Poets and Pretenders

John Sutherland, 2 April 1987

The Great Pretender 
by James Atlas.
Viking, 239 pp., £10.95, February 1987, 9780670814619
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The Position of the Body 
by Richard Stern.
Northwestern, 207 pp., $21.95, November 1986, 0 8101 0730 9
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The Setting Sun and the Rolling World 
by Charles Mungoshi.
Heinemann, 202 pp., £10.95, February 1987, 0 434 48166 1
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Conversations with Lord Byron on Perversion, 162 Years after his Lordship’s Death 
by Amanda Prantera.
Cape, 174 pp., £9.95, March 1987, 9780224024235
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... Africa as a whole, is an impenetrably cloudy future. Amanda Prantera’s Conversations with Lord Byron on Perversion, 162 years after his Lordship’s Death (another title that will infuriate cataloguers) has a neat premise. A super computer is programmed with every known fact about Byron: especially all the material in ...

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