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The Fictions of Byron

 

Fictions of Byron: An Annotated Bibliography
by G. Todd Davis

1900s

The Castaway; Three Great Men Ruined in One Year. Hallie Erminie Rives. 1904. A rich fictional memoir that supplements biography (somewhat changed and exaggerated) with a portrayal of Byron's passions, thoughts, and emotions. It follows the main character, George Gordon, from his schooling in Aberdeen to his death in Missolonghi, while stressing both poetry and love. The author intimately focuses on the incest scandal and the derision that individuals expressed toward the poet after his self-exile from England. Byron remains heroic, regardless of the incredible forces allayed against him. In a subtle personification of Nemesis, Trevanion becomes a doppelgänger enacting retribution. He impersonates Gordon in order to sully his name and increase Byron's disgrace. He is eventually shot by a loyal Greek, but not until his work has reached nearly epic proportions.

Love Alone is Lord. Frank F. Moore. 1905. The book proceeds in three sections. In the first section, a teenage Byron meets Mary Chaworth. She is older and he adores her. In the second section, Byron, having returned from his grand tour, has written Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, which was an immediate success. He meets and has a tumultuous relationship with Caroline Lamb. In the third section, Byron returns to Newstead Abbey and sees Mary Chaworth Musters and her children. He intuits her misery and tries to persuade her to leave her boorish, arrogant husband and run away with him, which resembles the plot in Mary Shelley's Falkner. She finally consents (surprisingly with her husband's approval, who has, unbeknownst to Byron and Mary, fallen in love with Caroline Lamb) but, as they are riding along the road to pick up her children, they come upon an accident in which Mr. Musters has been hurtparalyzed from the neck down. Mary realizes that she cannot leave her husband now and she leaves Byron standing on the road looking after her with a broken heart. The author portrays Byron as honorable, witty, arrogant, and melancholy. He believes in himself but wonders about his talent for poetry. Byron needs to write, driven by an inner compulsion. He loves Mary throughout the entire text, staying true to her to the end. He says that he was attracted to Lamb more because of her outrageous behavior than any connection they shared. The author elaborately describes the situation between Byron's great uncle and Chaworth, whom the elder Byron brutally murdered during a duel. At one point in the first section, seemingly supernatural events occur that lead both Byron and Mary to believe that Chaworth seeks revenge from beyond the grave.

The Marriage of William Ashe. Mrs. Humphrey Ward. 1905. The story begins just before William Ashe (William Lamb) and Lady Kitty (Caroline Lamb) are married. It elaborately describes the wildness and passion of Lady Kitty. Some imagine she might end up mad, and her temper gets both her and William into a number of scrapes. Even so, she captivates William and he asks her to marry him. Lady Kitty's eye wanders, though, and her passion leads her to an affair with Geoffrey Cliffe (Lord Byron). Everything ends badly, especially after Lady Kitty publishes a scandalous book about her circle, an intertextual allusion to Lamb's Glenarvon. Eventually, William and Kitty separate. Kitty ends up with Cliffe in the rebel's war between Bosnia and Turkey. This does not last, as she begins to passionately despise Cliffe for his scornful and haughty ways. In the end, she and William find one another again, rather surreptitiously, at an inn near Simplon Pass. Kitty dies alone in her room after having apologized to William for her careless and hurtful ways.

Maid of Athens. Lafayette McLaws (Emily Lafayette). 1906. In a similar vein to Love Alone is Lord, the author characterizes Byron as having fallen in love with the Maid of Athens, Lady Thyrza. He risks his life for her on numerous occasions. He impersonates individuals upon threat of death within the Turkish harems and courts. He signs up and swears allegiance to the Greek cause only to be found out by Kassam Pasha, who loves Lady Thyrza himself. Byron is exiled from Greece for four years. Kassam does everything in his power to make sure that Byron believes Thyrza dead or married. Eventually, Byron believes one of the ruses and marries Annabella Milbanke. In the end, Thyrza comes to England, having stayed true to her vows of love to Byron, only to find him married. Heart-broken, she withdraws to a convent. Byron leaves Lady Byron only to find out that Thyrza will not see him because of the machinations of another nun, who confesses on her deathbed. The last chapter shows Byron in Greece on his deathbed. In his feverish state, he sees Thyrza, who welcomes him into the afterlife. Much like Love Alone is Lord, Byron is portrayed as having one fateful love, adoring her above all others. He remains loyal and only despairs when he believes her either dead or married. Byron is the consummate lover, risking life and limb to be with his beloved. Since the coded "Thyrza" remained a mystery for a long time, this type of fiction attempts to dispel the obscurity. The author also reinterprets the "Maid of Athens" poem, which Byron wrote to Teresa Macri. Within this novel, the poem is written to the Lady Thyrza as a love poem/song that the French spy sings to her while dressed as an oarsman.

Bendish: A Study in Prodigality. Maurice Hewlett. 1913. The author describes George, Lord Bendish (Lord Byron) as a tempestuous lord and poet, and much of his story corresponds to Byron's biography. Roger Heniker takes the role of Hobhouse traveling with Bendish around Europe . Bendish toys with Rose Pierson, but she eventually becomes Heniker's wife. Gervase Poore (Shelley) spouts both revolutionary and atheistic attitudes. Georgiana, as a defiant and self-assured Mary Shelley, despises Bendish even though he becomes the toast of the town with both his orator skills and his poem "The Wanderer," which bears a striking resemblance to Childe Harold's Pilgrimage . In the end, Bendish so infuriates Gervase that they duel; he wounds Gervase but not mortally. Bendish's remains capricious throughout the text, which leads to numerous confrontations. Heniker has much of Hobhouse's staidness but lacks his absolute loyalty and staunch support of Byron. Ultimately unhappy and morose, Bendish briefly contemplates suicide, having lost everything important to him, setting the scene for the self-imposed exile that will surely follow.

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Published @ RC

January 2006