1930s

Printer-friendly versionSend by email
The Fictions of Byron

 

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

1930s

The Passionate Rebel. Kasimir Edschmid. 1930. Almost all the characters of Byron's life make an appearance. The author does, however, give the characters interesting names and nicknames. For instance, he refers to Byron throughout the text as Geordie, sometimes called "The Pup" by his mother, whom he calls "The Crow." Augusta becomes A. or Pippin or Goose. The Cambridge set calls Byron "Old Baron." Byron calls Hobhouse "Hobby" or "Hob." The author starts with Byron's birth and ends with Byron's death, moving from Aberdeen to Missolonghi. He spends less time on many aspects of Byron's life and much more time on only a few. The affair with Caroline Lamb takes an insignificant role especially when compared with the amount of time the author spends on the relationship between Byron and his sister. Hobhouse becomes a staid, arrogant man with remarkable athletic qualities. A Cambridge friend, he seems more like an "older" brother, always looking out for his younger, much less worldly, much more naïve sibling. The author spends inordinate time on the days at Harrow and Cambridge. He describes the fights, the dorm rooms, and the friendships. He does not, however, talk about Edleston or any sexual connections that Byron might have made during this time. Byron becomes the naïve child who is somewhat ashamed of his limp and who helps the Cambridge athletic teams with his shooting, diving, and horseback riding skills. The author also spends much time on the relationship between Byron and Augusta. She has dark skin, gorgeous physical qualities, and is constantly shown nude, either in her bedroom or in the shower, with water running down her supple body. She fascinates Byron, who remains strongly attracted to her body and her spirit. They love to ride horses together and get all sweaty. One of the first novels to paint Byron's attraction to Augusta in a sensual light, complete with love and justification for their actions. The characters go so far as to give examples from history of those individuals who have found incest appropriate: the Pharaohs, Lucretia Borgia, and Napoleon.

A Shade Byronic. John North. 1933. In this novel, a Byron specter appears to a middle-aged woman in the early twentieth century. He cannot speak, and so the mystery's unraveling depends upon the narrator's detective acumen. The ghost is introduced to the protagonist, a 44-year-old spinster named Irene Miles, as a "short and antique-looking man" who carried with him a copy of Sir Walter Scott's Quentin Durward (9). Only his "large grey eyes" and his inability to speak stand out as noticeable: "The small man opened his mouth to protest, but even after several attempts not a sound emerged." This silence drives the novel, but it also reduces the Byronic characterization to nothing more than eccentricities and idiosyncratic behaviors. His arrogant sneers, his moody pouts, and his demanding nature, often romanticized, stand out starkly against the more mundane picture of a lost and helpless man seemingly out of his element and time. His characteristics (taken from the Elizabeth Colburn Mayne biography that later appears as a prop within the narrative) are revealed over time to both the protagonist and the audience. The plot progresses with each new discovery. He limps with a "slithering gait," at a restaurant he eats nothing but cold potatoes soaked in vinegar and drinks nothing but soda water, and becomes immeasurably excited over red tooth-powder. He bites his nails, yet his "noble brow," "white skin" and "blue-grey eyes," bespeak nobility that remains apparent to the narrator. This is a Byron abridged, a phantom that cannot defend himself to his attackers, or even explain his confusion or desires to an often frustrated Miss Miles. He appears as nothing more than a shell of a man filled with Byron's more unappealing traits. His "slithery gait" and "white skin" resemble slimy monstrosity more than aristocratic nobility.

Crede Byron. Fanny Heaslip Lea. 1936. The play covers a fairly extensive period from 1804 to 1824. It begins with a prologue, in which Byron courts Mary Chaworth, and ends with an epilogue in Missolonghi, Greece, with Byron's death. The main acts run from 1811 to 1816. Thus, the play deals mostly with Byron's relationship with Caroline Lamb and Annabella. Augusta is present but more as support than anything else. Both Moore and Hobhouse play important parts in keeping Byron sane and helping him through legal crises. Mrs. Clermont once again enacts the downfall of Byron's marriage, searching out and finding the bottle of laudanum he kept hidden in his desk. She also, from the innuendo in the text, tells Lady Byron of the "special" relationship that Byron and Augusta share, but not until they have left Byron's house for a brief repose at Annabella's parent's house. Lady Melbourne once again seems to be the only woman who cares for him and about whom he cares. Both of them are always saying that if she were only a few years younger, they could run off together. Lukas makes an appearance at the end but only as a serving boy and messenger. He plays no further part than this in the drama.

Love and Lord Byron. Cale Young Rice. 1936. Each of the four acts of this play deals with a specific aspect of Byron's life as seen through women: Byron's mother and Mary Chaworth; Caroline Lamb and Lady Melbourne; Annabella and Claire Clairmont; and finally Claire Clairmont and Teresa Guiccioli. Byron's mother vilely harps on his lameness. Mary Chaworth's betrayal of Byron seemingly turns him into a monster. He vows revenge on all women for what Mary has done to him. The hint of incest runs throughout the second, third, and fourth acts. Augusta never appears in the play, but she permeates the text in almost wraith-like form. Byron often takes laudanum to dull the pain and the stress of his life. No mention of Hobhouse, which seems odd considering that he was around Byron during most of the time that this play covers. The author emphasizes Byron's eminence in the poetic circle, inasmuch as the characters believe only Shakespeare rivals him as a poet. Caroline has quite disparaging remarks about Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Shelley. Byron, however, thinks his poetry less important than doing something memorable, especially if it concerns action.

Falling Angel. Gerald Gould and Barbara Burnham. 1936. This play portrays Byron's life from 1812 to 1816: the tumultuous years with Caroline; the growing attraction towards Augusta; the marriage with and disastrous separation from Annabella; and all of his friends and peers' attempts to save him from personal destruction. The play remains fairly consistent with Byron's biography. The authors attempt to build upon historical facts to create their biographical fiction. Byron seems doomed for destruction almost from the beginning, where individuals, including Byron himself, refer to Byron as a fallen or falling Angel. Byron seems desperate to reveal the secret about his and Augusta's affair, but no one will let him. He censors himself constantly, coming close but never actually admitting to the incest. It remains the dirty little secret about which everyone wants to talk. Byron brings pain to almost every woman with whom he comes into contact. In particular, he remains rather odious to both Augusta and Annabella. The latter quips that she wasn't aware that marriage would be so lonely. She longs to befriend Augusta, and does, but then is tipped off to the affair by Caroline Lamb, who does so in revenge against Byron. After being cut-off by everyone at Melbourne house, the play ends with Byron glaring at the audience as the curtain falls.

Bitter Harvest. Catherine Turney. 1936. The play's narrative timeline runs from 1813 to 1816, beginning just after Byron terminates his affair with Caroline Lamb and commences his affair with Lady Oxford. Mainly, it focuses on the relationship that Byron shared with Annabella and Augusta. It begins with Byron's fame and ends with his degradation, emphasizing Lady Jersey's party where Byron was snubbed and the separation between Annabella and Byron. In the last scene, he asks Augusta to go abroad with him; she refuses, and he signs the separation papers as she leaves. This play was banned in England because it hinted at the incest between Byron and Augusta. One of the more important relationships that surfaces in this play is between Byron and Sir Walter Scott. Byron treats him as a bosom friend, more so than Hobhouse or Moore. He even compares him to his faithful dog, which gave all and expected nothing. The author portrays Caroline Lamb as vindictive, malevolent, and single-handedly responsible for the lies and rumors that persist about Byron throughout London.

Mad Shelley. Elma Dangerfield. 1936. The play portrays Shelley's early life at Eton to his death near Genoa. First, Shelley is sent down from Eton for fighting and trying to "raise the devil;" then he is sent down from Oxford with Hogg for writing a pamphlet on atheism. He courts and elopes with Harriet Westbrook, then finds himself sincerely attached to Mary Godwin. They run off together with Claire Clairmont. They eventually find Byron, and the author spends much time on the relationship between Claire, Byron, and Allegra, with Shelley acting as a mediator. The play ends with the drowning, the funeral pyre, and the burning of the bodies. Hogg and Shelley have a falling out because Hogg falls in love with Harriett and attempts to woo her. Both Shelley and Harriett are vexed by his manner and send him packing. The author portrays Godwin as hypocritical. When Mary and Shelley talk to him about his philosophies on free love, he says he meant it in the abstract, not within his own family. Towards the end, everything gets thrown into the mix: Shelley's philandering (with various women, including Jane Williams); Claire and Shelley's intimate relationship; poetic and philosophic talks between Byron and Shelley; Mary's undying loyalty to Shelley; Trelawny's friendship with both Byron and Shelley; the genesis of the journal Byron, Shelley, and Hunt hope to publish; Shelley and Williams's drowning; and finally the funeral pyre at the end, complete with sizzling brains and intact heart.

Published @ RC

January 2006

Country