The Visual Discourse of Byron’s Celebrity

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


Scrutinising a print of Byron, Caroline Lamb found herself infatuated with the sitter and infuriated with the artist:

I marvel how a man who attends so minutely to every button and tassell should not study the hand more — and the ear: In all England I know but of two that have ears similar — and that eye […] expresses every feeling the young Corsair has not — such as ill-humour, obstinacy, industry, instead of fire, genius, craft, spirit and incessant variety.1


White Collar Picture Book Romantic Period Visual Motif Private Collection 
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  1. 1.
    Cited in George Paston and Peter Quennell, To Lord Byron: Feminine Profiles Based on Unpublished Letters 1807–1824 (London: John Murray, 1939), p. 65. The print in question is an engraving of Thomas Phillips’s ‘cloak’ portrait.Google Scholar
  2. 4.
    Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice (1813) ed. Vivien Jones (London: Penguin, 1996), p. 205.Google Scholar
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    Ibid. See Deidre Lynch, The Economy of Character: Novels, Market Culture, and the Business of Inner Meaning (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1998), pp. 130–3.Google Scholar
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    Annette Peach, ‘Portraits of Byron’, The Walpole Society, 62 (2000), 1–144, cat. no. 4.1.Google Scholar
  5. 8.
    David Piper, The Image of the Poet: British Poets and Their Portraits (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1982), p. 1.Google Scholar
  6. 9.
    William Galperin, The Return of the Visible in British Romanticism (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993), p. 19. On the division of knowledge into disciplines in the Romantic periodGoogle Scholar
  7. 10.
    W.J.T. Mitchell, ‘Introduction’, in The Language of Images, ed. W.J.T. Mitchell (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 1974), pp. 1–2.Google Scholar
  8. 12.
    Gillen D’Arcy Wood, The Shock of the Real: Romanticism and Visual Culture, 1760–1860 (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2001), p. 8.Google Scholar
  9. 13.
    Patricia Anderson has studied the role of these technologies in producing ‘a transformed and expanded popular culture’ with an ‘increasingly pictorial character’. Patricia Anderson, The Printed Image and the Transformation of Popular Culture: 1790–1860 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991), p. 2.Google Scholar
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    William St Clair, The Reading Nation in the Romantic Period (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), pp. 134–5.Google Scholar
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    John Murray to Byron, 19 March 1819, in The Works of Lord Byron: Letters and Journals, ed. Rowland E. Prothero, 5 vols (London: John Murray, 1898–1904), IV, 282–3.Google Scholar
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    Richard Westall, Catalogue of an Exhibition of a Selection of the Works of Richard Westall RA, Including 240 Pictures and Drawings Which Have Never before Been Exhibited (London: Joyce Gold, 1814).Google Scholar
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    Ibid., p. 43. Richard Walker, Regency Portraits, 2 vols (London: National Portrait Gallery, 1985), I, 82.Google Scholar
  14. 21.
    The will is cited by Malcolm Elwin, Lord Byron’s Family: Annabella, Ada and Augusta, 1816–1824 (London: John Murray, 1975), pp. 227–8. In fact, Ada was allowed to have the portrait when she married in 1835, and at that stage she had the copy made for herself by Phillips, which is now in the National Portrait Gallery, London, ref. 142.Google Scholar
  15. 24.
    Suzanne K. Hyman, ‘Contemporary Portraits of Byron’, in Lord Byron and his Contemporaries: Essays from the Sixth International Byron Seminar, ed. Charles E. Robinson (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1982), pp. 204–34 (p. 207).Google Scholar
  16. For further criticism on Byron’s portraits see Christine Kenyon Jones, ‘Fantasy and Transfiguration: Byron and His Portraits’, in Byromania: Portraits of the Artist in Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Culture, ed. Frances Wilson (London: Macmillan, 1999), pp. 109–36CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Annette Peach, ‘Byron and Romantic Portrayal’, in Lord Byron: A Multidisciplinary Open Forum, ed. Thérèse Tessier (Paris: The Byron Society, 1999), pp. 193–203; and the essays collected in Byron: The Image of the Poet, ed. Christine Kenyon Jones (Newark: University of Delaware Press, forthcoming).Google Scholar
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    Alan Lang Strout, ed., John Bull’s Letter to Lord Byron (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1947), p. 80.Google Scholar
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    Lord Byron, Don Juan (London: William Benbow at the Lord Byron’s Head, Castle Street, Leicester Square, 1822). The frontispiece image is reproduced in Beevers, p. 130Google Scholar
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  22. 40.
    [John Roby], The Duke of Mantua (London: Thomas Davison, 1823).Google Scholar
  23. See Samuel Chew, Byron in England: His Fame and After-Fame (London: John Murray, 1924), pp. 176–7Google Scholar
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  25. 41.
    Henry Fothergill Chorley, The Authors of England: A Series of Medallion Portraits of Modern Literary Characters (London: Charles Tilt [1838]). The authors were Hemans, Scott, Byron, Southey, the Countess of Blessington, Coleridge, Bulwer, Lady Morgan, Shelley, Moore, Lamb, Mary Russell Mitford, Campbell and Wordsworth. For the dating of this bookGoogle Scholar
  26. see Oscar José Santucho, George Gordon, Lord Byron: A Comprehensive Bibliography of Secondary Materials in English, 1807–1974, The Scarecrow Author Bibliographies (Metuchen, NJ: The Scarecrow Press, 1977), p. 234.Google Scholar
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    F.G. Stephens and Mary Dorothy George, Catalogue of Political and Personal Satires Preserved in the Department of Prints and Drawings in the British Museum, 11 vols (London: British Museum, 1978), IX, 163 (cat. no. 11941).Google Scholar
  28. 43.
    Reproduced as plates 47 and 50 in Anthony Burton and John Murdoch, Byron: Catalogue to an exhibition to celebrate the 150th anniversary of his death in the Greek War of Liberation, 19 April 1824 (London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1974).Google Scholar
  29. 45.
    George Cruikshank, Forty Illustrations of Lord Byron (London: James Robins and Co. [1825]).Google Scholar
  30. 47.
    [Alexander Kilgour], Anecdotes of Lord Byron, from authentic sources; with remarks illustrative of his connection with the principal literary characters of the present day (London: Knight & Lacey, 1825).Google Scholar
  31. 49.
    See Julian Rothenstein and Mel Gooding, eds, The Playful Eye: An Album of Visual Delight (London: Redstone, 1999), p. 61 and passim.Google Scholar

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© Tom Mole 2007

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