Printer-friendly versionSend by email
The Fictions of Byron


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


The Passionate Poet. Julia Mannering. 1951. A novel that focuses almost exclusively on Byron's seductions of women, as he moves from one conquest to the next. A quote from the text provides ample evidence for his rakish behavior: "Byron at his young age had learnt the secret of power. The humble suppliant, the sighing lover, had no magic to move the heart of a womanif she had a heart. But reject women, and they came crying and running, clinging to the tail of one's coat like beggars calling for alms." Byron appears here as a raunchy libertine, seemingly never satisfied with any woman, always longing for the thrill of the hunt. Having caught his prey, he discards her and moves on to the next pursuit. Mary Chaworth becomes the catalyst for this bawdy libertine; her rejection of him begins this repetitive and destructive behavior. Hobhouse appears as critic of Childe Harold's Pilgrimage.

Camino Real. Tennessee Williams. 1953. A dark, brooding play in which Byron makes only the briefest of appearances. For Williams the play enacts love's power as well as the anxiety over death and an unknown future. It displays Williams's empathy with and admiration for the vulnerability and valor of artists and exiles. The play includes numerous symbolic characters based on well known archetypes from popular and literary mythology: Casanova, the greatest lover; Lord Byron, the greatest poet; Don Quixote and Sancho Panza from Cervantes's novel; Proust's Baron de Charlus; Esmeralda, the gypsy girl from Victor Hugo's novel; Nursie, played by a man, from Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet; and a naïve ex-prizefighting young American, named Kilroy, with a heart as big as the head of a baby. These characters are trapped, both physically and metaphorically, hoping to escape from beneath the tyrannical rule of the Generalissimo, who never appears, and of Gutman, an aristocratic fat man in a white suit, suggested by the character from The Maltese Falcon. The "royal road" ends and the "real road" begins in Camino Real. It resides on the margins, a place where "the spring of humanity has gone dry" and from which there is just one exit: a staircase leading to "terra incognito." In The Foreword, Williams talks about "constructing another world while the world that you live in dissolves beneath your feet." He maintains that the characters are "mostly archetypes of certain basic attitudes and qualities with those mutations that would occur if they had continued along the road to this hypothetical terminal point in it." He ends with: "I only know that I have felt a release in this work which I wanted you to feel with me." In his brief appearance before taking the staircase into the unknown, Byron talks about his life as a poet and that the Camino Real has softened his meter and his pen. He longs to get back to the life he used to know, fighting for freedom and helping men to raise their hearts above the mundane. He speaks fondly yet sadly of Shelley's death and of the burning on the beach as a purifying act for Shelley. He longs to once again listen to the pure strains of his heart. He leaves with a quiet intensity, knowing that he will have to cross a large desert but willing to take that chance to get back to what he once was. It is one of the truly brave acts in the play.

My Caravaggio Style. Doris Langley Moore. 1959. "This is the story of a literary deception, told by the culprit himself, a charming young bookseller named Quentin Williams, who attempts nothing less than a forgery of Lord Byron's burned memoirs" [dust jacket advertisement]. The secret memoirs coming to light has long haunted and fascinated Byron's devotees. In the final two chapters, Moore writes herself into the text as a Byron scholar who comes to judge teh forged manuscript. Jocasta, as a fashion model, seems hardly suited to Byron studies. Quentin, in an attempt to keep her occupied, assigns her the task of finding all the references to animals in Byron's poetry, prose, and biographies. She finds the search irresistible and soon falls in love with Byron himself. Quentin becomes jealous over the obsession she has with the dead poet. Consequently, this adamantly staunch supporter of Byron decides to add a few scandalous parts to the memoirs to disillusion Jocasta's image of Byron. He essentially works against what he set out to do, which was to defend Byron against all his detractors. As a result, Jocasta burns the forged memoirs in the same grate in the Murray publishing house that had burned the original memoirsa tidy piece of irony there, especially with the mischievous Byron looking down from a portrait hanging on the wall.

Three on Trial. Lawrence Kitchen. 1959. Much like the movie Bad Lord Byron, the short drama puts Byron on trial for his life: on the prosecutor's side, Claire, Hunt and Lady Byron; on the defender's side, Moore, Fletcher and a Greek peasant. Byron does not address the court, only sits quietly, allowing others to speak for him. As with the movie, the author asks the audience to be the jury. The interaction between the Judge and the two attorneys is quite humorous at times, including subtle irony, mock humility, and not-so-subtle sarcasm.

An Elegance of Rebels. Noel Langley. 1959. The play takes place between 1822 and 1824, focusing mainly on the relationships between Byron and Shelley, Mary, Teresa, and the Hunts. The first act takes place in Montenero, Italy; the second in Genoa; the third in Greece. The author expresses his own tongue-in-cheek manner through the characters. Some of the funniest lines come from Teresa and Byron, especially when directed towards the Hunts. At one point, the Hunt children are playing ball against the wall of Byron's study. The Hunt children call Byron "Old Limpy" behind his back. From offstage, the audience hears a gunshot. Teresa, aghast (as the stage directions say), calls to Byron: "Byron! Have you shot a Hunt?" Leigh Hunt really comes off very poorly in this piece, maltreated by almost everyone. Mary Shelley and Byron have a tumultuous friendship. At points, they seem to despise one another. Trelawny appears as a braggart and a coward, always leaving when needed most and always looking for the highest bidder with the most money. Teresa and Byron are not altogether happy in this piece. They fight constantly, yet Byron always turns to Teresa when depressed or sick. She comforts him when no one else can.

Published @ RC

January 2006