Synopses & Reviews
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 ofpeople. 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 firstcollected 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 It includes a considerable number of hitherto unpublished letters and the complete text of many that were bowdlerized byformer editors for a variety of reasons.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 brioin 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 theclose 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 withMarianna 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 Allegraand 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.
Marchand's new edition of Byron's letters and diaries is a delight to read.
Byron's sinewy, funny, electrifying letters are emergency bulletins from a man operating, more often than not, on the extreme edege of despair and disgrace...We begin to read these letters as speedily as he musthave written them, held by his scorn, his dissatisfaction with himself and his blazing energy. He is fiercely alive.
Byron is one of the most versatile and provocative of our letter writers. More perphaps than any other, he has left us a collection of writtings that constitute a brilliant and incisive portrait of their author.
Byron's letters are among the most spirited in the English language, and are irresistible...Byron is a good letter writer because whether he is scoffing, arguing, or even conducting his business affairs, he has ahalf-laughing eye on his correspondent; although he can turn icily formal, he has mainly a talking style of worldly elegance.
Passionate, worldly, businesslike, scurrilous, gossipy, tender, despondent--[the letters] exude charm and wayward intelligence, and above all the rippling energy with which this prototype of the Romantic hero livedand worked...In their candor, wit, and perceptiveness, they serve him better than any biographer.
About the Author
The late Leslie A. Marchandwas Professor of English, Emeritus, Rutgers University. For his lifelong work on Byron, he was given the National Book Critics Circle's Ivan Sandrof Award.
Table of Contents
SELECTED LETTERS ANDEXCERPTS FROM JOURNALS
ANTHOLOGY OF MEMORABLE PASSAGES
I. Biographical Summary of Byron
II. Biographical Sketches of Correspondents
III. List of Letters and Journals in this volume