Byromania pp 184-194 | Cite as

Byronic Confession

  • James Soderholm


M. H. Abrams long ago identified an important connection between Augustinian ‘crisis-autobiography’ and certain forms of writing in the English Romantic period, particularly the poetry of Wordsworth. One may think, for example, of The Prelude as both confessional and autobiographical, a one-man epic about the growth of a poet’s mind and his attempt to sacralise his imagination. Abrams was wise to observe a profound difference, however, between St Augustine’s wholly theodicial autobiography and the ’secular theodicy’ of Wordsworth’s masterpiece, where the poet presents ‘a theodicy without an operative theos — which retains the form of the ancient reasoning, but translates controlling Providence into an immanent teleology’.1 The complete omission of Byron from Abrams’s Natural Supernaturalism (1971) suggests that his style of confessional biography is at further variance from the traditional models that partly inspired Wordsworth. The confessional, immanently teleological plot of Wordsworth’s epic bears very little resemblance to the theatricality, materiality, and duplicity one sees in Byron’s confessional writings.


Journal Entry Subsequent Reference Complete Omission Cartesian Cogito Entire Life History 
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    M. H. Abrams, Natural Supernaturalism: Tradition and Revolution in Romantic Literature (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1971), pp. 95–6.Google Scholar
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    Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality, Vol. 1, tr. Robert Hurley (New York: Vintage Books, 1980), p. 35.Google Scholar
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    Jerome J. McGann, ‘Byron and the Anonymous Lyric’, The Byron Journal, No. 20, (1992), p. 40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Confessions, tr. J. M. Cohen (Middlesex: Penguin Books, 1953), p. 17.Google Scholar
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    Jean Starobinski, Jean-Jacques Rousseau: Transparency and Obstruction (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1971), p. 285. Subsequent references are to this work.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • James Soderholm

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