The Complete Poetical Works - Vol. 5

The Complete Poetical Works - Vol. 5

The Complete Poetical Works - Vol. 5

The Complete Poetical Works - Vol. 5


The last volume in The Oxford English Text's Byron Series, this crictical study discusses Byron's poetry of the last two years of his life, 1823 and 1824, and supplies individual indexes of his poems by volume and page number, titles, and first lines. The book also includes a general index to the work as a whole.


DON JUAN is the most important poem published in England between 1667 (when Paradise Lost was issued) and 1850 (when The Prelude finally appeared in print). No one would undertake a comprehensive critical edition of Byron's masterpiece without mixed feelings of humility, determination, and wonder. Producing this edition has immersed me in the life of Byron and his age to an extent I did not and could not foresee when I began the process of editing the poem in 1975. The work has involved an education in Byron (whom I thought I knew fairly well), his world (with which I knew I was no more than handily familiar), and his epic masterwork (which only gradually revealed itself to my study). These introductory remarks mean to locate the scholarly context in which this edition appears, and to explain what seem to me the significant features of the edition, and how the student may best use it. I will begin by sketching the scholarly history of the text.

The 'Variorum' Edition

The publication of the so-called 'Variorum' edition of DJ in 1957 (DJV) was an epochal event in Byron studies. This edition allowed us to see, for the first time very clearly, the complex creative process which lay behind Byron's greatest poem. DJV assembled and systematically described virtually all of the manuscripts relating to DJ still known to exist, and it analysed in several illuminating ways Byron's habits of composition, accretion, and revision. This set of descriptions and analyses constitutes the principal achievement of DJV. Furthermore, these manuscript investigations, coupled with DJV's decision to return to the early (usually the first) editions of the various cantos for copy text, resulted in a text of the poem which instantly replaced the standard texts of E. H. Coleridge (C) and 1832.

The only notable weakness of DJV remarked by the scholarly community lay in its commentaries and glosses. In this area of its work DJV not only left much to be desired in absolute terms, it could not bear comparison, in relative terms, with the advances secured in C. The editors of DJV sought to remedy this fault when . . .

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