Byron: A Critical Study

Byron: A Critical Study

Byron: A Critical Study

Byron: A Critical Study

Excerpt

The object of book is to offer an account of Byron's career and achievement as a poet.

His life and personality have always fascinated readers, and today (as in the past) there is no shortage of biography or psychological analysis to satisfy their curiosity. But this perennial interest in "Byron the man" has led all too often to a neglect of Byron the poet; and although his works have never gone completely out of fashion--although they are indeed the subject of some valuable modern studies--they cannot be said to have received their due of critical attention. I propose, therefore, to concentrate on them, assuming that the main facts of his life are well-known, and presenting only such biographical material as seems directly useful to the critic.

There is, however, a good deal of this: his literary work was only one of Byron's interests, and in my first chapter I attempt to place it in the context of his other main ambitions, showing how they affected his whole attitude to poetry. Then again, his work varies remarkably in character and content and to explain these variations one must frequently refer to aspects of his mind and personality (as well as to his fluctuating literary tastes), for many of the poems derive directly from his own experience, or reflect his changing and contrasting moods, his psychological and mental conflicts. Biography and criticism, in Byron's case at any rate, are not opposed but complementary approaches.

His career as poet divides itself into two major phases. In the first of these (from 1805 or so to the summer of 1817) he wrote his early satires, some comparatively unimportant minor verse, and the long series of romantic works that made him famous. Throughout this period, which covers almost two- thirds of his entire creative life, he was trying his hand at different types of poetry and expressing certain of his moods and feelings, without ever finding a poetic manner wholly suited to his personality and genius. One studies the results one does the juvenilia and subsequent experiments of any . . .

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