Lord Byron: Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage and Manfred
Byronism was a phenomenon produced by the life and notoriety as well as by the poetry of George Gordon, Lord Byron (1788–1824). After the publication of the first part of Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage Byron became famous, then notorious. Beginning in 1812, he had a series of dramatic social and poetic triumphs in London society. The young nobleman had been lionized in part for his charm and good looks, in part for his earlier travels through the Mediterranean, and for the melancholy and suffering contemporaries saw in him. These years of success included publication, among other works, of two pieces reflecting Byron’s travels, The Giaour (1813) and The Corsair (1814), which presented early portraits of the Byronic heroes—men at odds with their worlds, men unable to mix effectively with their fellows, men with secret sorrows or secret crimes. Yet these were men in some ways more admirable than any of those around them, men who could lead because of their aura of strength. Such depictions helped build the image of their author. The Byron who set out for the Continent in 1816 left behind him marital scandal and the consequent opposition of much of polite London society. The heroes of Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage in Canto III (after 1816) and of Manfred (1817) reveal a still more profoundly felt sense of difference and separation from society. The autobiographical character of Childe Harold helps to make clear how closely Byron himself may be identified with the Byronic hero.
KeywordsPersonal Ideal Early Travel Romantic Youth Public Death Fleeting Span
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