Lord Byron: Selected Letters and Journals

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Harvard University Press, 1982 - Biography & Autobiography - 400 pages
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Byron was a superb letter-writer: almost all his letters, whatever the subject or whoever the recipient, are enlivened by his wit, his irony, his honesty, and the sharpness of his observation of people. They provide a vivid self-portrait of the man who, of all his contemporaries, seems to express attitudes and feelings most in tune with the twentieth century. In addition, they offer a mirror of his own time. This first collected edition of all Byron's known letters supersedes Prothero's incomplete edition at the turn of the century. It includes a considerable number of hitherto unpublished letters and the complete text of many that were bowdlerized by former editors for a variety of reasons. Prothero's edition included 1,198 letters. This edition will have more than 3,000, over 80 percent of them transcribed entirely from the original manuscripts.

Byron's epistolary saga continues con brio in this volume. At the start of 1818 he sends off the last canto of Childe Harold and abandons himself to the debaucheries of the Carnival in Venice. At the close of 1819 he resolves to return to England but instead follows Teresa Guiccioli to Ravenna. In the meantime he writes three long poems and two cantos of Don Juan, whose bowdlerization he violently protests; he breaks off with Marianna Segati, copes with his amorous "tigress" Margarita Cogni, then falls passionately in love with the young Countess Guiccioli; he thinks seriously of emigrating to South America; he takes custody of his little daughter Allegra and becomes increasingly fond of the child. The Shelleys visit him, as does Thomas Moore, to whom he entrusts his memoirs (burned after his death). The letters to friends are a marvelous outpouring of funny anecdotes, practical talk, discussions of his poems, statements of his beliefs. The love letters are in a class by themselves.

  

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This was a book that really changed my life. It was also one of the last things my grandmother ever got me. I remember she expressed confusion over the fact that I was really getting into books of ... Read full review

Contents

Editorial Note
1
SELECTED LETTERS AND EXCERPTS
19
ANTHOLOGY OF MEMORABLE PASSAGES
325
Biographical Summary of Byron
361
Biographical Sketches of Correspondents
369
List of Letters and Journals in this volume
377
Copyright

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About the author (1982)

English poet and dramatist George Gordon, Lord Byron was born January 22, 1788, in London. The boy was sent to school in Aberdeen, Scotland, until the age of ten, then to Harrow, and eventually to Cambridge, where he remained form 1805 to 1808. A congenital lameness rankled in the spirit of a high-spirited Byron. As a result, he tried to excel in every thing he did. It was during his Cambridge days that Byron's first poems were published, the Hours of Idleness (1807). The poems were criticized unfavorably. Soon after Byron took the grand tour of the Continent and returned to tell of it in the first two cantos of Childe Harold (1812). Instantly entertained by the descriptions of Spain, Portugal, Albania, and Greece in the first publication, and later travels in Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, and Italy, the public savored Byron's passionate, saucy, and brilliant writing. Byron published the last of Childe Harold, Canto IV, in 1818. The work created and established Byron's immense popularity, his reputation as a poet and his public persona as a brilliant but moody romantic hero, of which he could never rid himself. Some of Byron's lasting works include The Corsair, Lara, Hebrew Melodies, She Walks In Beauty, and the drama Manfred. In 1819 he published the first canto of Don Juan, destined to become his greatest work. Similar to Childe Harold, this epic recounts the exotic and titillating adventures of a young Byronica hero, giving voice to Byron's social and moral criticisms of the age. Criticized as immoral, Byron defended Don Juan fiercely because it was true-the virtues the reader doesn't see in Don Juan are not there precisely because they are so rarely exhibited in life. Nevertheless, the poem is humorous, rollicking, thoughtful, and entertaining, an enduring masterpiece of English literature. Byron died of fever in Greece in 1824, attempting to finance and lead the Byron Brigade of Greek freedom fighters against the Turks.

The late Leslie A. Marchand was Professor of English, Emeritus, Rutgers University. For his lifelong work on Byron, he was given the National Book Critics Circle's Ivan Sandrof Award.

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