The Portable Byron
230 pages, 6 x 9; Paperback Release Date:27 Nov 2020 ISBN: 978-1-9889633-1-0
Byron is both a classic that is still famous and studied and someone in need of rescuing—yet there has been no “portable Byron” until now.
Byron’s name stands out as perhaps the best-known English-language author since Shakespeare. However, one studies Byron today especially because of his astonishing fame (and his libertinism) in the early nineteenth century; or because some of the characters he created in his poems are very closely associated to the most familiar version of English High Romanticism. His prominence suffers from the generic depreciation of precisely the works that made him famous two hundred years ago. And yet, Byron the author can be “rescued” for a general readership today—as this volume will hopefully show—though some of his individual works might remain the province of specialists and diehard enthusiasts. That is why, instead of completeness, this volume seeks coherence by relying mostly on fragments from his poetry and prose, arranged thematically.
The organising criterion of this volume is not biographical; the focus will not be on Byron “the man,” not even on Byron “the artist,” but rather on Byron the commentator. He was definitely more interested in saying his piece, in talking about his age, and, in passing, about himself. Byron was a liberal, anti-colonial aristocrat with some republican tendencies, deeply interested in the revolutionary national movements of the early 19th century. He was a Romantic poet with a major satirical vein, much attached to the 18th-century tradition of Pope, Swift, Fielding, Goldsmith, and Sheridan. The reader of this volume will not be able to grasp the development of Byron’s poetical output and she will miss much of the force (but, for today’s reader, also the tedium) of his long epic poems. Hopefully, however, she will find everything that was important to Byron: Italy and Greece, exile and melancholy, the intricacies of love, the fight for liberty, social criticism and moral criticism, the criticism of hypocrisy and of moral correctness (the “cant” as he called it), his willingness to defend the undefended.