Born for Opposition

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Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1978 - Biography & Autobiography - 271 pages
1 Review
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 It includes a considerable number of hitherto unpublished letters and the complete text of many that were bowdlerized by former editors for a variety of reasons.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 has more than 3,000, over 80 percent of them transcribed entirely from the original manuscripts.

Born for Opposition opens with Byron in Ravenna, in 1821. His passion for the Countess Guiccioli is subsiding into playful fondness, and he confesses to his sister Augusta that he is not "so furiously in love as at first." Italy, meanwhile, is afire with the revolutionary activities of the Carbornari, which Byron sees as "the very poetry of politics." His Journal, written while the insurrection grew, is a remarkable record of his reading and reflections while awaiting the sounds of gunfire. In spite of the turmoil, Byron stuck fast to his work. By the end of this volume, in October 1821, he is established in Pisa, having written Sardanapalus, Cain, and The Vision of Judgement.

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Review: Letters and Journals, Vol 5: 'so Late Into the Night', 1816-17

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The different volumes seem to be scattered through hundreds of listings, testifying to Byron's enduring popularity. These thoughts will therefore have to do for all the volumes. Byron the man is soooo ... Read full review

Contents

Editorial Note
1
Byron Chronology
7
TEXT OF THE LETTERS
51
Copyright

3 other sections not shown

Common terms and phrases

References to this book

About the author (1978)

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.