The Major Works

The Major Works

The Major Works

The Major Works

Synopsis

This authoritative edition was originally published in the acclaimed Oxford Authors series under the general editorship of Frank Kermode. It brings together a unique combination of Byron's poetry and prose - all the major poems, complemented by important letters, journals, and conversations - to give the essence of his work and thinking. Byron is regarded today as the ultimate Romantic, whose name has entered the language to describe a man of brooding passion. Although his private life shocked his contemporaries his poetry was immensely popular and influential, especially in Europe. This comprehensive edition includes the complete texts of his two poetic masterpieces Childe Harold's Pilgrimage and Don Juan, as well as the dramatic poems Manfred and Cain. There are many other shorter poems and part of the satire English Bards and Scotch Reviewers. In addition there is a selection from Byron's inimitable letters, extracts from his journals and conversations, as well as more formal writings.

Excerpt

Byron was born in London the year before the French Revolution broke out in Paris in 1789; he died in Greece in 1824. Since that time, students of history and literature have often dated the Romantic Period 1789-1824, partly because the character of this period was so determined by the epochal events in France, and partly because the career of Byron seemed at once its summary and its climax. No other literary figure, not even Goethe, was so widely and actively engaged with the important people and events of his time. Unlike Wordsworth, who stands with Byron as pre-eminent among the great English poets of the period, Byron was a European writer and (if the pun be permitted) man of affairs. Everything he wrote established explicit filiations with the world in which he moved, and his work sought, in addition, to see and represent the historical patterns and continuities which connected the present to the recent and distant past. Byron's work is, in every sense, a poetry of experience.

From his earliest to his latest work, however, the experiences which underpin both the deeds and the ideas of Byron's literary work assume a peculiar and characteristic form. Byron writes himself into all his poetry, of course, but the self thus represented is always viewed in a detailed context of impinging social and historical relations. More, Byron insists -- increasingly so as his career unfolds -- that the context which envelops his life is of world-historical dimensions. This quality of his work is reflected in all its material aspects: in the sweeping range of its topics, subjects, and models (classical and European alike, ancient and modern, English and Continental); in its deliberate embrace of the most traditional and the most experimental poetic forms; and finally in the range of the styles which he not only used, but also took seriously -- from the most ephemeral types of street songs, ballads, and vers de société to the heroic manner of the tales, the high rhetoric of the satires, and the noble numbers of poems like Childe Harold's Pilgrimage. In the end -- that is to say, in Don Juan -- he reinvented, for a changing Western culture, a new high style in poetry that answered to the variegated and dynamic (not to say chaotic and unstable) social circumstances of what we now call the Modern World. Like Heine, Pushkin, and Baudelaire after him -- all poets . . .

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