Academic journal article The Byron Journal

Life Lessons from Byron

Academic journal article The Byron Journal

Life Lessons from Byron

Article excerpt

LIFE LESSONS FROM BYRON. By Matthew Bevis. London: Pan Macmillan. 2013. Pp. 107. ISBN 978 1 4472 4574 2. £6.99.

The title is accurate. There are things that we can learn from Byron and they can be put in a book, even though, as Matthew Bevis points out, Byron had his doubts about this: 'reading or non-reading a book will never keep down a single petticoat'. The book is in seven short chapters all of which try to answer a 'How to?' question - 'How to Become Yourself/Think with Your Body/Laugh/Go Astray/Get Wet/Hope/Say Goodbye'. Texts from Byron and others, and reflections by the writer make up the answers. In a coda, Bevis explains how he encountered Don Juan as a student: 'The first thing that I warmed to was the poet's assumption that he and I had been on intimate terms for quite some time'. The book is written out of this sense of intimacy with Byron which never seems forced or mannered. I get the impression that Dr Bevis must be an excellent teacher.

Here is an example of some of the 'Life Lessons' that we might learn from reading Byron: 'To become ourselves, then, is to keep some sense of bearings or direction, yet also to make ourselves up as we go along'. We should live, like Byron, by a 'blending of cerebral and corporeal perspectives'. The style here is both polished and at ease. It seems obvious that Bevis has learned this from his master. For example, his dictum that Byron 'tends towards provocation, not precept' could have been coined by Byron himself. …

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