‘The Eloquence of Indifference’: Byron

  • Mark Storey


Byron is often seen as a figure apart from the other Romantic poets: it was an image he carefully cultivated. But that careful cultivation was necessary because he knew how little apart, in many ways, he was, either from the Keatsian or the Wordsworthian tradition. The irrational animosity between Keats and Byron is explicable only when we acknowledge what they have in common: each in his own way is obsessed with the problems of writing about the self, and the self’s perplexities. As for Wordsworth and Byron, the differences are obvious. Perhaps the surest indication of their dissimilarity is to register Byron’s famous mobilité against Wordsworth’s stolid consistency. It is, at its simplest, a question of gait, and paradoxically the poetry is a mirror-image of what we know from life — Wordsworth’s gigantic strides across the moors are transformed in the poetry into something much more sedate and sober; Byron’s limp becomes the heroic swagger of his ottava rima. But the polarities are too easy, too tempting: Byron has to face the same problems of self and subject-matter, and how these are to be accommodated in a poetry that speaks to and for the age. Byron’s aristocratic hauteur and Wordsworth’s ‘egotistical sublime’ have points in common.


Careful Cultivation Good Humour Death Ride Romantic Poet Poet Laureate 
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    See Leslie A. Marchand, Byron: A Biography, I (1957), p. 148.Google Scholar
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    Jerome J. McGann, Fiery Dust: Byron’s Poetic Development (Chicago and London, 1968), especially pp. 3–28.Google Scholar
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    Paul West, Byron and the Spoiler’s Art (1960), p. 58.Google Scholar
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    Byron’, in M. H. Abrams (ed.), English Romantic Poets, 2nd ed. ( London, Oxford, New York, 1975 ), p. 268.Google Scholar
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    E. M. Butler, Byron and Goethe (1956), p. 49.Google Scholar
  6. 31.
    Helen Gardner, ‘Don Juan’, in Paul West (ed.), Byron: A Collectiin of Critical Essays (1963), pp. 113–21.Google Scholar
  7. 34.
    John Wain, ‘The Search for Identity’, in Paul West (ed.), Byron: A Collection of Critical Essays (1963) pp. 157–70.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Mark Storey 1979

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mark Storey
    • 1
  1. 1.BirminghamUK

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