English Bards and Grecian Marbles: The Relationship between Sculpture and Poetry Especially in the Romantic Period

By Stephen A. Larrabee | Go to book overview

VII. BYRON BYRON AND ART

ACCORDING to his early biographer John Galt, Byron "affected" to possess no feeling for art.1 "Affected was precisely the word, for on many occasions the poetic lord revealed an unmistakable sensitivity to works of art. The descriptions of Athens, Rome, and Florence in Childe Harold and the account of the Coliseum in Manfred were consciously written as set pieces--patches as purple as Byron could make them; they are some of the best as well as most familiar sections of his more florid verse. Gothic art, particularly architecture, also interested the part of Byron which delighted in Newstead Abbey and in the gloomy effects achieved by Mrs. Radcliffe and other romancers. Nevertheless, he was primarily classical in taste.

Byron repeatedly protested ignorance of the fine arts, from the announcement in 1810, "I am not a collector or admirer of collections," to his remark to Trelawny at Ithaca in 1823, "I detest antiquarian twaddle."2 Yet he added notes to Childe Harold referring to various popular travel books and authorities on antiquities, and he took great pride in the Historical Illustrations of the Fourth Canto of Childe Harold written by his friend John Cam Hobhouse in 1818. Compared either to Hobhouse or to Rogers, he was indeed, as he said, "a poor virtuoso."3 Byron belonged to the tribe of connoisseurs, however, in his references to the fine arts and, more conspicuously, in his devotion to the beau ideal and in his habit of seeing resemblances between actual persons and works of art. An early example of his

____________________
1
The Life of Lord Byron ( 1830), p. 109.
2
Works of Lord Byron; Poetry, ed. E. H. Coleridge ( 1898- 1901, II, 170-72, and E. J. Trelawny, Recollections of the Last Days of Shelley and Byron ( 1858), p. 204.
3
Letter to Thomas Moore, Nov. 7, 1818 ( Works; Letters and Journals, ed. R. E. Prothero [ 1898- 1901], III, 387).

-149-

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English Bards and Grecian Marbles: The Relationship between Sculpture and Poetry Especially in the Romantic Period
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vi
  • Contents xi
  • Contents xiii
  • I. Poets and Sculpture 1
  • Ii. the Early Poets 18
  • III- the Seventeenth Century Pre-Restoration: the Uses Of Statue-Craft 43
  • Iv. the Eighteenth Century 66
  • V. Blake 99
  • VI- Wordsworth And Coleridge 120
  • VII- Byron Byron and Art 149
  • VIII- Shelley Greece: "The Crystalline Sea Of Thought" 175
  • IX- Keats Keats, the "Greek" 204
  • X. Landor and Hunt 233
  • Xi. the Lesser Poets 257
  • Xii. Conclusion 277
  • List of Critical Terms 289
  • A Selective Bibliography 293
  • Index 299
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