1920s

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The Fictions of Byron

 

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

1920s

The Pilgrim of Eternity. K. K. Ardaschir. 1921. Little is known of this play. In Byron in England: His Fame and After-Fame, Samuel C. Chew writes: "The Pilgrim of Eternity, by K. K. Ardaschir, was produced at the Duke of York's Theatre, London, in November 1921. It met with no favour and was withdrawn after a short run" (167).

The Prince of Lovers. Directed by Alicia Ramsey. 1921. Hal Erickson, from All Movie Guide, writes: "Prince of Lovers purports to be the filmed biography of hedonistic poet Lord Byron, here played by Howard Gaye [but is] [l]ittle more than a pageant of Byron's many 'amours.' [. . .] The most interesting characterization is delivered by Marjorie Day as Lady Caroline Lamb, the politician's wife who scandalized all of London via her unabashed illicit romance with His Lordship. This fascinating woman was later spotlighted in a 1973 biopic [Lady Caroline Lamb, directed by Robert Bolt]." In Byron in England: His Fame and After-Fame, Samuel C. Chew writes: "During the summer of 1922 an excellent photo-play, The Prince of Lovers, was shown at the Philharmonic Hall, London. This 'British Screencraft' production was adapted by Miss Alicia Ramsey from her play Byron. Mr. Howard Gaye acted the part of the poet. Interesting Byron relics, lent by Mr. Murray and by Mrs. Fraser (the present owner of Newstead Abbey), were used or copied for the film. The costumes and furnishings were satisfyingly free from anachronisms. The action centered in the years 1812-1816, and then, omitting the Italian period, passed to the last phase in Greece. Liberties are taken with historical facts, but save for the somewhat sentimentalized conclusionHobhouse appears at the bedside of the dying poet with a message from the King of Englandthere was hardly a note in the performance to jar upon the sensibilities of a spectator who was well acquainted with the facts of Byron's life" (167).

The Machine Wreckers. Ernest Toller. 1923. The play begins with a prologue in the House of Lords. Byron argues against the death penalty for machine wreckers. Lord Castlereagh argues against Byron and stands in favor of industry and the steam engines. The vote goes against Byron. In the play itself, we hear from the weavers who are thrown out of their jobs by the advent of the steam engine. The women and children are starving and the men want to destroy the machine. Jimmy Cobbett speaks as a socialist, pleading for unionization and the building of the men's esteem through fellowship. He talks of the evils of Mammon (Capitalism's guise in the play) and the joys of bonding together for the right cause. Byron only plays a bit part here. He speaks against the death penalty in the prologue. (The author provides his original speech before the House of Lords in the appendices.) He stands alone against the full House of Lords when the vote comes.

Lord Byron. Maurice Ferber. 1924. The play has eight scenes and runs through Byron's life rather quickly, documenting his relationships with one woman or another. It begins with Caroline Lamb and Lady Melbourne, moves to his marriage with Annabella, then his relationship with Claire, and finally a dream sequence in which a number of Byron's paramours parade through the room. The last scene, Byron's funeral, shows Augusta and Caroline, who are both inordinately grieved and inconsolable by his death. Ferber contradicts Byron's biography rather extensively. Many of the scenes and conversations could not have taken place. For instance, Mary Shelley works on Frankenstein before leaving for Switzerland while Byron is still in England.

Glorious Apollo. E. Barrington. 1925. The novel begins with Byron's life at Cambridge and moves to his death in Missolonghi, Greece . Rich in detail, the novel follows Byron's biography closely while adding emotions and thoughts to the characters' actions. The author pays particular attention to the relationships with Dallas, Caroline Lamb, Lady Melbourne, Hobhouse and Moore, Annabella Milbanke, and Augusta Leigh. The narrative, initially told from Byron's perspective, switches to Lady Byron during the marriage and separation, then back to Byron in Venice and Greece. One of the first fictional texts to address the incest between Byron and Augusta with such overt detail and nuance. In the Preface, Barrington says: In writing the life of Byron in the form of a novel I have endeavoured, as in The Divine Lady and in my other books, to touch biography with imagination and to present the essential truth as I see it, clothing the historic record with speech and action. From historic truth I have never knowingly departed, having consulted the best sources of information, such as Lord Lovelace, Miss Mayne, Moore, and many other authorities. The letters though often condensed are all authentic, with the exception of a note from Lady Melbourne to Miss Milbanke in Chapter VI (v).

Donna Juana. Eileen Hewitt. 1925. Eileen Hewitt subtitles this work: "A novel in verse." A rollickingly fun read with sharp wit and philosophical meanderings. Uses digression as a foundation supporting a rather predictable and sometimes mystifying plot. One would think that a poem of this name would use the ottava rima form Byron favored in Don Juan. It does not. Instead, it uses a fairly straight-forward iambic pentameter with an AABBCCDDD rhyme scheme. Much as it tries, though, it never successfully succeeds in rivaling Byron's mastery of wit, charm, irreverence, and humor.

The Shattered Harp. Howard Gordon Page. 1928. The novel runs from 1812 to 1824 and explores, rather extensively, Byron's connections to the women of his life: Mary, Caroline, Isabella (Lady Byron), Lady Melbourne, and Teresa. Byron adores Mary and can't seem to forget her. Wild, passionate, and crazy, Caroline simply won't leave him alone. Cold and manipulative, Isabella remains sinister and vindictive. The author portrays Lady Melbourne as Byron's surrogate mother and confidante. Teresa picks up the pieces after his Venice decline. Represented as the temperamental genius poet, Byron continually chooses the wrong women to love. He is a caring, much maligned poet who seems to need someone in his life to guide him and care for him. He comes into his own when he writes and, in the end, when he goes to Greece to fight for independence. He dies unhappy, but the ending more than makes up for his grief and degradation as he is literally crowned with glory in heaven. The novel attempts to explain away numerous secrets that had surfaced around Byron. Medora becomes the child of Mary Chaworth and Byron's passion while Mary was separated from her husband, Mr. Musters. Augusta takes it upon herself to raise the child to spare both the mother and father from scandal. Isabella, who appears in this novel as a calculating harpy set on destroying Byron's life after she finds out about the numerous debts, fabricates the incest lie. Mrs. Clermont helps her by spying incessantly on Byron, only to be discovered by the loyal Fletcher. Byron has visions or trances into which he falls quite often; some seem nearly prophetic while others are more like epileptic convulsions. While Byron is in Venice, the author makes particular note of the degradation and despair into which Byron sinks. His profligacy and drug use spirals out of control and he loses himself to debauchery and transgression. Surprisingly, the author denigrates Don Juan repeatedly, saying from Byron's mouth that he hated the poem and hoped that future generations would not call it his masterpiece when so many of the other poems were so much better.

Published @ RC

January 2006

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