This biography of Byron (by Byron's own publisher John Murray) attempts to reinterpret Byron's life and poetry for a new generation. Fiona MacCarthy has had access to the full John Murray Byron archive, by far the largest in the world. In addition to this resource of correspondence, literary manuscripts and artefacts (many previously unseen by ...
This biography of Byron (by Byron's own publisher John Murray) attempts to reinterpret Byron's life and poetry for a new generation. Fiona MacCarthy has had access to the full John Murray Byron archive, by far the largest in the world. In addition to this resource of correspondence, literary manuscripts and artefacts (many previously unseen by Byron scholars), she has drawn fully on other major collections and has travelled extensively in the Europe that Byron knew, believing strongly in the resonance of place. She aims to bring a fresh eye to Byron's childhood in Scotland, his embattled relations with his mother and the effect on him of his deformed foot. MacCarthy traces his early travels in the Mediterranean and the East, using fresh material to throw light on his series of relationships with adolescent boys - a hidden subject in earlier biographies. Perceptive on the compelling tragi-comedy of Byron's separation, his incestuous love for his half-sister Augusta and the clamorous attentions of his female fans, Fiona MacCarthy gives a new importance to his close male friendships, in particular with his publisher John Murray. For the first time she tells the story of their famous rift, as Byron's poetry became more recklessly controversial. Here Byron is viewed as a formative figure in European romanticism, the literary equivalent of Napoleon in the sweep of his ambition. He was a charasmatic influence on 19th-century music, painting, dress, manners and the art of self-preservation. Not merely a poet, Byron was a man of action, involved in the Italian "Risorgimento" and in the Greek War of Independence in which he died aged 36. Newly translated letters illuminate this tragic episode. Byron was a celebrity in his lifetime, a "superstar" after the publication of "Childe Harold" in 1812. As the Byron legend grew to unprecendented proportions after his death, the problem for the biographer has been to sift the truth from the sentimental, the self-serving and the spurious. What was Byron really like?
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Extremely well researched and written biography. Recommended for scholarly use, and to anyone who is interested in Byron's life. Note to publisher: Please... get a cover that hasn't been used a hundred times before! There are other, vibrant and elegant images of Byron that can be used for a cover.
Publishers Weekly, 2002-10-07 While biographies of Byron have appeared with regularity since his death in 1824 at age 36, British author MacCarthy's (William Morris: A Life for Our Time) engrossing, coolly perceptive study of the Romantic poet is notable for its refusal to swoon over Byron's legend while still attuned to the evolution of his powerful personality and its impact on the world of art and literature. She notes how Byron went from being a mediocre student mocked by other boys to a charismatic leader of his peers and an extraordinarily well-read young man (though he read in secret, "to keep up his pose of anti-authoritarian idler"). She discusses how carefully he had to suppress his homosexual impulses in an increasingly conservative England, and how crucial his 1809-1810 travels in Greece and Turkey were to not only Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, but to his own life. The familiar arc of his fame covers an abortive career in English politics and a disastrous marriage (rent with rumors of incest with his half-sister), and the years of his exile in Switzerland, Italy and Greece, during which, MacCarthy argues, he introduced England to Europe and vice versa. She considers his poetry; his influence on English and European writers from Victor Hugo to Charlotte Bront; and the cult of Byron that developed after his death. If her dispassionate approach succeeds more in describing his fascinating, contradictory character than penetrating his psychology, she nonetheless gracefully shows how the "life" and "legend" of the subtitle fed off each other. (Nov.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
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