Scopophilia and Somatic Inscription in Byron’s Verse Tales

  • Tom Mole
Part of the Palgrave Studies in the Enlightenment, Romanticism and Cultures of Print book series (PERCP)


After Childe Harold’s dazzling success, all eyes were on Byron. The upper echelons of Regency society welcomed him into their drawing rooms and showered him with invitations to balls and dinners, not to mention trysts and assignations. Byron now faced the challenge of consolidating his position in the Romantic celebrity culture that he was helping to create, sustaining the attention he had attracted and proving that his fame was more than a flash in the pan. Between them, Byron and Murray needed to turn the remarkable singularity of Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage into a sequence providing a reliable income for the publisher and fuel for the poet’s fame.


Regency Society Fragment Form Narrative Information Past Crime Close Observer 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 2.
    Most recent criticism of Byron’s verse tales has set them in the context of British domestic or imperial politics. See, for example, Daniel P. Watkins, Social Relations in Byron’s Eastern Tales (Rutherford, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1987)Google Scholar
  2. Nigel Leask, British Romantic Writers and the East: Anxieties of Empire (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), pp. 13–67Google Scholar
  3. Marilyn Butler, ‘The Orientalism of Byron’s Giaour’, in Byron and the Limits of Fiction, ed. Bernard Beatty and Vincent Newey (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1988), pp. 78–96Google Scholar
  4. Caroline Franklin, ‘ “Some Samples of the Finest Orientalism”: Byronic Philhellenism and Proto-Zionism at the Time of the Congress of Vienna’, in Romanticism and Colonialism: Writing and Empire, ed. Tim Fulford and Peter Kitson (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), pp. 221–42. Turning to Byron’s celebrity should not mean turning away from those contexts, but should further illuminate them.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 3.
    Frank Kermode, The Sense of an Ending: Studies in the Theory of Fiction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1967).Google Scholar
  6. 4.
    Peter Brooks, Reading for the Plot (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1984), p. 52.Google Scholar
  7. 5.
    J. Hillis Miller, ‘Narrative’ in Critical Terms for Literary Study, ed. Frank Lentricchia and Thomas McLaughlin (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1990), pp. 66–79 (p. 72).Google Scholar
  8. 6.
    David Seed has analysed some of the effects of the fragment form in ‘ “Disjointed Fragments”: Concealment and Revelation in The Giaour’, The Byron Journal, 18 (1990), 14–27. For an argument that aims to connect the fragment form to issues of gender and imperialism, see Joseph Lew, ‘The Necessary Orientalist? The Giaour and Nineteenth-Century Imperialist Misogyny’, in Romanticism, Race and Imperial Culture, ed. Alan Richardson and Sonia Hofkosh (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1996), pp. 173–202.Google Scholar
  9. 7.
    Marjorie Levinson, The Romantic Fragment Poem: A Critique of a Form (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1986), pp. 124–5.Google Scholar
  10. 8.
    George Ellis, ‘Review of Lord Byron’s Giaour, and Bride of Abydos’, Quarterly Review, 10 (January 1814), 331–54 (p. 341)Google Scholar
  11. Francis Jeffrey, ‘Review of Lord Byron’s Giaour’, Edinburgh Review, 21 (July 1813), 299–309 (p. 299).Google Scholar
  12. 9.
    ‘Communication in literature, then, is a process set in motion and regulated, not by a given code, but by a mutually restrictive and magnifying interaction between the explicit and the implicit, between revelation and concealment. What is concealed spurs the reader into action, but this action is also controlled by what is revealed; the explicit in its turn is transformed when the implicit has been brought to light. Whenever the reader bridges the gaps, communication begins.’ Wolfgang Iser, ‘Interaction Between Text and Reader’, in Readers and Reading, ed. Andrew Bennett (London: Longman, 1995), pp. 20–31 (p. 24).Google Scholar
  13. 10.
    Sales figures from William St Clair, ‘The Impact of Byron’s Writings: An Evaluative Approach’, in Byron: Augustan and Romantic, ed. Andrew Rutherford (London: Macmillan, 1990), pp. 1–25 (p. 9). Details of the title pages are from early editions of The Giaour in the British Library.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 11.
    Leslie A. Marchand, Byron: A Biography, 3 vols (London: John Murray, 1957), I, 257–8. Thomas Medwin and John Galt confirmed the rumours, but Hobhouse prudently claimed that ‘the girl whose life lord Byron saved at Athens, was not the object of his lordship’s attachment — but that of his lordship’s Turkish servant’ (ibid., I, 258n).Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Peter Brooks, Body Work: Objects of Desire in Modern Narrative (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993), p. 25.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    This aspect of the poem would have had particular resonance in Romantic Britain. The armed forces were expanding rapidly in response to the Napoleonic threat, and large numbers of volunteer militia, distinguished by their fine uniforms, drilled regularly around the country. See Linda Colley, Britons: Forging the Nation, 1707–1837 (London: Vintage, 1992; 1996), pp. 297–337. Tim Fulford argues that the period witnessed a protracted rethinking of the values of chivalric masculinity elegised by Burke.Google Scholar
  17. Tim Fulford, Romanticism and Masculinity: Gender, Politics and Poetics in the Writings of Burke, Coleridge, Cobbett, Wordsworth, De Quincey and Hazlitt (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1999).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. John Tosh provides an overview of research in this area. John Tosh, ‘The Old Adam and the New Man: Emerging Themes in the History of English Masculinities, 1750–1850’, in English Masculinities 1660–1800, ed. Tim Hitchcock and Michèle Cohen (London: Longman, 1999), pp. 217–38.Google Scholar
  19. 17.
    Judith Butler, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (New York and London: Routledge, 1990; 1999), xv.Google Scholar
  20. 19.
    On Byron’s use of classical sources in this transformation and the transformation that follows Selim’s death, see Robert B. Ogle, ‘The Metamorphosis of Selim: Ovidian Myth in The Bride of Abydos II’, Studies in Romanticism, 20, no. 1 (1981), 21–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 20.
    Laura Mulvey, ‘Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema’, Screen, 16, no. 3 (1975), 6–18, reprinted in Feminisms: an Anthology of Literary Theory and Criticism, ed. Robyn R. Warhol and Diane Price Herndl (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1991; 1997), p. 442.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 29.
    See H. Warner Allen, Number Three Saint James’s Street: A History of Berry’s the Wine Merchants (London: Chatto and Windus, 1950), p. 87 on the ledgers, pp. 101–4 on Fox, pp. 137–8 on Brummell, p. 149 on Moore and pp. 149–54 on Byron.Google Scholar
  23. 31.
    For biographical investigations of Byron’s diets, see Jeremy Hugh Baron, ‘Byron’s Appetites, James Joyce’s Gut, and Melba’s Meals and Mésalliances’, British Medical Journal, 315, no. 7123 (1997), 1697–703CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Arthur Crisp, ‘Commentary: Ambivalence toward Fatness and Its Origins’, British Medical Journal, 315, no. 7123 (1997), 1703CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Jeremy Hugh Baron and Arthur Crisp, ‘Byron’s Eating Disorders’, The Byron Journal, 31 (2003), 91–100CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Wilma Paterson, Lord Byron’s Relish: The Regency Cookbook (Glasgow: Dog & Bone, 1990), pp. 131–42.Google Scholar
  27. 32.
    James Makittrick Adair, An Essay on Diet and Regimen, 2nd ed. (London: James Ridgway, 1812). Baron suggests that the earlier treatise was [William Wadd], Cursory Remarks on Corpulence (London: Printed for J. Callow, Medical bookseller; by J. and W. Smith, 1810).Google Scholar
  28. 33.
    William Stark, The Works of the late William Stark […] with experiments, dietetical and statical (London, 1788)Google Scholar
  29. Sir John Sinclair, The Code of Health and Longevity, 4 vols (Edinburgh, 1807). Both books are listed in the 1816 sale catalogue for Byron’s library, CMP, pp. 231–45.Google Scholar
  30. 34.
    Criticism on Byron and food includes Christine Kenyon Jones, ‘ “Man Is a Carnivorous Production”: Byron and the Anthropology of Food’, Prism(s): Essays in Romanticism, 6 (1998), 41–58Google Scholar
  31. Christine Kenyon Jones, ‘ “I wonder if his appetite was good?” Byron, Food and Culture: East, West, North and South’, in Byron: East and West, ed. Martin Procházka (Prague: Charles University Press, 2000), pp. 249–62Google Scholar
  32. Carol Shiner Wilson, ‘Stuffing the Verdant Goose: Culinary Esthetics in Don Juan’, Mosaic, 24, no. 3–4 (1991), 33–52Google Scholar
  33. Peter W. Graham, ‘The Order and Disorder of Eating in Byron’s Don Juan’, in Disorderly Eaters: Texts in Self-Empowerment, ed. Lilian R. Furst and Peter W. Graham (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1992), pp. 113–23Google Scholar
  34. Jane Stabler, ‘Byron’s World of Zest’, in Cultures of Taste/Theories of Appetite: Eating Romanticism, ed. Timothy Morton (Basing-stoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004), pp. 141–60Google Scholar
  35. Tom Mole, ‘ “Nourished by that Abstinence”: Consumption and Control in The Corsair’, Romanticism, 12, no. 1 (2006), 26–34.Google Scholar
  36. 35.
    By 1810, there had been 16 German, 15 French, 2 American, 2 Russian, 1 Dutch, and 20 English editions. See Ellis Shookman, ‘Pseudo-Science, Social Fad, Literary Wonder: Johann Caspar Lavater and the Art of Physiognomy’, in The Faces of Physiognomy: Interdisciplinary Approaches to Johann Caspar Lavater, ed. Ellis Shookman (Columbia, SC: Camden House, 1993), pp. 1–24 (p. 2). Graeme Tytler provides an analysis of Lavater’s impact, which aims to make us ‘conscious of the historicity of physical character description in English fiction after 1789’.Google Scholar
  37. Graeme Tytler, ‘Lavater and Physiognomy in English Fiction 1790–1832’, Eighteenth-Century Fiction, 7, no. 3 (1995), 293–310 (p. 307).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. 37.
    William Wordsworth, The Thirteen-Book Prelude, 2 vols, The Cornell Wordsworth, gen. ed. Stephen Parrish, ed. Mark L. Reed (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1991), 12. 161–8.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Tom Mole 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tom Mole

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations