Riassunto esame Letteratura Inglese, prof. Villa, libro consigliato The Silver Fork Novel, Copeland
documented in many books of written at the time and also in novels (Dickens...).
The Poor Laws system began to decline when other forms of assistance became
available. It was in some jobs, some trade unions (sindacati) had their own provision
for their own members; if someone lost his jobs, the trade union would help them.
When more of these form of alternative help became available, the workhouses lost
their importance in society.
SLIDE 2_the main SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC THEORIES at the time
The first important element of the rising of the middle class attitude to work the
economy it the so-called Free Trade. It wasn't invented in those years. In fact the
main pillar of the theory of Free Trade is The Wealth of Nations (1776) by Adam Smith
(1723-1790). It was a product of the (Scottish-) enlightenment. This revolutionary
theory became the middle-class economic orthodoxy in the 19th century.
He was the theorist of the free market economy. Smith believed that human beings,
act on the base of personal interest (the feeling that something you do is good for you
first of all) and free competition with others. According to Smith that two things
allowed economic prosperity.
In attempt by the State, the King, the Government to interfere with the free market, a
free search for personal interest is going to damage the economy of the all society.
So, Smith has the idea that if individuals are free to persuade their interests, in a
contest of justice, will produce the best possible economic condition for society at
large. He knew that sometimes it can happen that producers of a certain type of
goods agree together to keep prices high and this at the expense of the Nation. He
was very worried by the idea of monopoly and monopolistic economy, that it was very
bad for free traders - the ideal free trade requires that there's should be many free
The economy should be left to itself and if left to itself, everything will go waste; there
was a sort of ‘invisible hand’ governing the economy.
In this time, Smith was really fighting against the idea that the Government, state,
King, aristocracy, could pass laws that favoured them limiting the economic freedom
of society. He wrote is book in 1776, but of course he had many followers that were
horrified by the Corn Laws, that was the exact opposite of the free market. The free
market theory would say: war is over, the price corn will fall because now we are able
to import corn from France, Russian...and that will be good to everyone. Our local
farm will be accepted, but the nation in its entirety? Will be favoured, so eventually
our producers of corn will have to adjust prices, but the Nation will be ok.
One big enemy of the free traders were duties on imported-exported goods.
The chief worrying? of Smith and his followers was that certain sectors of society,
should be unduly privileged by the state - that was the negative interference by the
State in the freedom of the market.
Some consequences of this point of view:
- free traders were generally interfering in the free market of labour: by helping the
- free traders were generally against the Corn Laws, and other forms of tax and
- free traders were (basically) against the idea of Empire. To establish an Empire was
to create preferential lines of communication and trade between
metropolitan centres and the colonies. In the early part of the century, the free
traders were surely against the Empire. It cost money to the State and it wasn't a
good idea from their point of view. But in the course of the 19th century, free traders
started to be more flexible on the idea of compelling other nations to be free traders
Very big land owners often had many other interests, but small landowners who had
only their lands to live on and who derived most of their money from the land they
were Conservative, Tories and against free trade. The new commercial and industrial
classes thought that free trade would be good for them.
Another interesting author at the time was Thomas Robert Malthus (1766-1834) who
wrote An Essay on the Principle of Population (1798). He was a scholar, a member of
the Church (clergyman) and his field of study was mainly demography (problems link
to population) and political economy. Was a very religious man, and he also wasn't an
optimist as many of his contemporaries were.
In looking at the way population evolves in relationship to food resources, he believed
that population always grows faster than food resources. He said that population
grows geometrically (doubling 2, 4, 8...), while food resources most grow
arithmetically (1, 2, 3...). There should be timed when there isn't enough food for
everyone. It is inevitable that there should be demographic crisis in the sense of crisis
in the relationship between edible resources and people (unchecked population growth
— starvation). Periodically nature provides in the form “positive” (in the sense of
active) checks with famines, epidemic diseases, wars (even if produced by men). After
famine the population is made up by fewer individuals and there maybe a moment
when natural resources are more than the actual need of the people. This encourage
people to reproduce more and again there will be a time inevitably, when where will
be more people than resources (and again a need for one remedy).
There were also preventive checks: goods remedies to overpopulation was marrying
late (they will generate fewer children), celibacy and abstaining from sexual activities
(moral checks). Other ways were homosexuality and birth control (immoral checks).
At the end of the 19th century there was the so-called neo-malthusian activists, who
supported birth control (they were considered very bad by the virtues Victorians).
Early in the century, this was just one other reason why, the good British middle class,
would look with preoccupation to the sexual life of the poor, who tended to be
promiscuous; they didn't virtually wait to be wealthy enough. They generated lots of
children which according to Malthus is very bad. They are spoke about biopolitics, an
attitude, a politic that should discourage the poor from having sex before the marriage
or having children to early — sort of want to determine the private life.
The main theorist and founder of Utilitarianism was Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832), a
man of the time of enlightenment. He was very different from Malthus, because he
had a very materialistic view of life. He had a very empiricist view of human nature;
he spoke of the search for pleasure and the avoidance of pain are the main motives of
human behaviour (not very different from Smith and self-interest).
Moral question: how can we define a good action?
The main principle of the Utilitarian theory is the greatest happiness principle.
Bentham said that “an action that produces happiness, and so more pleasure and less
pain, is good".
What was really new and modern was that he believed that considering one action,
pleasure and displeasure could be calculated by a mathematical formula.
It depending on the intensity of the pleasure, the duration, the certain/uncertain of
reaching that objective, the remoteness of something...
It was also a “democratic” theory, because one of the crucial elements was how many
people are affected. Bentham was interested in good/bad legislation, so he wanted to
evaluate each new law on the bases of the utility majorment. The more people are
benefited the better.
Utilitarianism was a revolutionary criterion to evaluate laws and social practices Its
quote was “it is the greatest happiness of the greatest number that is the measure of
right and wrong”, very democratic statement, because he believed that “one man is
worth just the same as another man”. There are no people who's happiness count
This criterion dismantling all sort of bad laws, institutions and customs that favoured
the few and damaged the many ath the time. New laws should be passed if they are
conducive to a greater welfare for many.
For instance, he wanted to revise the penal code, which allowed that people could be
deported to the colonies just for very petty crime. He would say why death penalty,
what's the advantage, the good of this. The utilitarians didn't stop just there, they
questioned also the institution of the aristocracy. What is the general utility
of a hereditary aristocracy? Is it a good thing that in a modern society there should be
some people who are privileged in this way and that can pass on with their privilege to
Bentham & his followers
In 1824 there was the founding of The Westminster Review an important philosophical
radical review. One of the most important young man who contributed and wrote on it
was John Stuart Mill one of the great liberals and thinker of the 19th century. He
fought for the emancipation of women in 1817 who wrote the Subjection of women. At
the time he was one of the young contemporaries of Disraeli, who hated
utilitarianism; the targets for satire in Disraeli’s The Young Duke
On the other hand, Bulwer in the early 30/late 20 he was interested in Utilitarianism;
he was a radical politician and indeed he published in the Westminster Review. He
disgusted and hated the silver-fork fiction. But Bulwer selected Pelham for special
praise: there was some satire in it that was favourable to what he thought.
SLIDE 3_SOCIAL RANKS AND CLASSES
Traditional tri-fold division
Today we will discuss the meaning of the word “aristocracy” and the minor social
groups. Traditionally when we speak of aristocracy we speak of something that is no
longer with us even in Britain the aristocracy nowadays it is there, but it doesn't get
the same meaning of the time. We go back to a time when people still (the beginning
of the 19th) sort of reason (?) in terms of the traditional tri-fold division of society,
• peerage/nobility, the aristocracy - in England represented by the House of Lords;
• commoners, the common people - represented in theory by House of Commons;
• Priesthood/the clergy - the members of the Church of England, who had their own
representatives in the House of Lords.
There are two words which nowadays are used interchangeably: aristocracy and
nobility. The term “aristocracy” comes from the Greek language and used to mean
“the rules of the best”. In Ancient Rome these people coincided with the creators, the
founders of the ancient republic and their descendants, which were also called
“patricians”. Patricians comes from father (pater) and again there is the idea that your
ancestors were distinguished, had some special merits, they were the founders of the
In origin for quite a long time, the term “aristocracy” meant the form of government
more than the actual people: you spoke of the nobles of the nobility, meaning the sort
of people who had titles, and then you spoke of an “aristocracy” meaning a state
governed in a certain way.
Nobility is not very difference: the roots “noble” is the same of the Latin “nosco”. Are
those who are known, all the dissidents of those who were known, of noble and
distinguished ancestor. Since the Ancient time there was the idea that some people
deserve more and also somehow bequise(?) their characteristics, their ability to rule
and lead the country to their sons and descendants. The concept was variously used
in the course of the centuries, for instance in the Middle Ages living nobly implicate
being great warriors. This is something that somehow remains in the aristocracy. For
instance, many of the sons of the members of the most important aristocratic families
in Britain, went to fight in the First World War; many died there because was in their
upbringing the idea that as a member of the aristocracy you were first of all a great
warrior or had to be (the first role of an aristocratic caste is to be able to defend the
state, the king...). In the course of time, the role of the aristocracy as warriors lost
importance and also the method of becoming noble simply by fighting became
obsolete even earlier (in the '50/'60 century — Tudor were noble but not expected to
have their own armies or to fight, they were expected to fight for the queen, the king,
but not to be able to fight perhaps against them).
By '50/'60 the Monarch had acquired the absolute right to make people decide who
was a noble, to ennoble people. King monarchs had the monopoly of the
ennoblement; only kings could grant titles of nobility and generally they did so with
people who had been useful to them. Service to the Monarch or the Nation was
rewarded with the title. The title doesn't mean money in it sense but only distinction;
it was quite a good way for monarch to reward the faithful servant, considering that
they didn't have to pay anything.
Although the aristocrats like to think that their titles go back for many generations,
often it was not the case. The distinction didn't come from ancient times but simply
they were made distinguished by an act of the king, in fact nobility it always created
by authority: by the King, by the State. But it becomes something associated with
birth or with blood: this implicit the idea that their title are hereditary. Of someone
many years ago distinguished himself so much to become a duke, a baron...we may
assume that is a good blood and that it also belong to his descendants.
Length of ancestry (the number of noble generations behind the single noblemen)
confers additional prestige there are recent noble and others who were noble many
generations ago, so, the older is your title the better.
The nobility of the Land
The nobility of the land was the top of the social pyramid.
In England, at the beginning of the 19th century, this very top was represented by a
very limited group of nobles families who were called Peers of the Realm
(:i pari del regno) — they were by birth right members of the House of Lords. Their
titles were hereditary (roughly 300 families).
For the aristocracy difference between themselves and people who are not nobles is
very important but not only also differences among themselves.
Rules of precedence: at the top of the hierarchy was the duke/duchess, on the lower
step the marquess/marchioness then there is the earl/countess
(traditional British equivalent of the count); there is viscount/viscountess, and on the
lower level the baron/baroness. There are even difference ways of addressing the
- when you speak of a duke - is His Grace;
- a marquess - Most Honourable;
- other peers (earls, barons) - Right Honourable.
All the people on the lowest step, all aspires to go up.
There are significant differences between British and continental aristocracy in term of
privileges. While, for instance, in France if you are a duke all your children get your
title, in England the son of a duke isn't a duke until the father dies.
But it's not true that British Lords hadn't privileges at all:
- peers could only be tried by their peers: no common tribunal could judge over peer;
- they couldn't be arrested in civil cases;
- they had access to the sovereign, so they could confer with the king/queen directly;
- in more ancient times they had a special law, called “sumptuary laws” which decided
“who could wear what” (only aristocracy could wear specific item, clothes...);
- they weren't imprisoned for debts;
- if they had to be executed (nobility were even more at risk than commoners) the
capital punishment was decapitation instead of hanging (for the commoners).
Privileges linked to the ownership of land:
- typically they could hunt because own the land.
[The importance of the ownership of the land for the peers: the peers of realm, the
aristocracy of the country, were a pre-industrial elite. They considered the land the
main source of wealth. Small landowners would calculate the land directly but very
bug landowners such as the peers of the realm would derive that wealth, no so much
directly from the produce of the land, but from rents. They have so many lands that
they can rent it out to different tenants and they could cultivate the land for them and
pay the rent. This allowed the rich landowners to have no obligation to work himself, a
great privilege. The beneficiary of the rents were those who were free from the
burden of labour. This means they had a huge amount of spare time in which they
could do other things, originally the main task was to fight. In the course of the
century they would be employed in politics, diplomacy, administration or leisure
One important element which apply generally to the Lords of inheritance in Britain,
but that was especially meaningful for the aristocracy is the primogeniture or right of
primogeniture that is “the right of succession and inheritance due to a firstborn,
especially a firstborn son”. In England the law of inheritance from father to children
was based rigidly on right of primogeniture. This it been eventually made the
aristocracy of England so strong and resilient in time, because this avoided the
division of the properties among many children (in France for instance, the properties
were divided among children and this weaken the property).
It was the right of the firstborn child of a family (especially a son) to succeed or
inherit property or title to the exclusion of other claimants (:that could claim a right,
such as daughters, younger sons, illegitimate...).
In Britain only the eldest son inherits the aristocratic status; all other children are just
commoners and have to find their place in life. Daughters tried to get married, while
younger sons had a variety of chooses; typical jobs were becoming a member of
Parliament, enter the army as officer, admiral...Sometimes the church could be an
opportunity, in particular to people who were higher in the social hierarchic. The worst
thing that could happen is having only girls, because they could not inherit the title
nor the land, that goes to someone else (cousin, uncle...).
Entail (juridical term)
The settlement of the succession of a landed estate is entailed so that it cannot be
bequeathed at pleasure by any one possessor. If your property is entailed some of
your ancestor decided to opt for this, you cannot sell the parts of your property which
are entailed, you have to keep them at all costs to leave them to further generation.
If something like this existed, a fixed or prescribed line of devolution, the aristocrats
sometimes they couldn't pay their debts even if they wanted: they might want to sell
a part of their property but maybe they couldn't because it was entailed.
Is the submission to the acknowledged superior claims, skill, judgement, or other
qualities, of another. Often in phrases like to pay, show, yield deference.
In the traditional society of early 19th century Britain one tended to be deferent to
people higher up in the social hierarchic. So the peerage would be all deference to the
king, the commoners would be deference to the peerage...
→ A courteous regard such as is rendered to a superior, or to one to whom respect is
due. The power of the aristocracy was the power of money, of land, but also linked to
traditional attitudes of deference of people. Even in case when someone could have
ignored the will of the Lord, there was a tendency to differ to their will and their
desires. It's a more impalpable form of power.
While the economic power of the aristocracy was eroded in the course of the 19th
century, the prestige of the aristocracy still remain(?)
Nobilities are always made those who tent to show, to assume that there is something
innate. Nobilities are small compared to the numbers of people in whatever society
and frail because families get extinct or fail to be got an earl (?). There is always a
need of new nobles, which are normally recruited from the upper levels of the
commoners (the lower classes).
Those who distinguished themselves in business...may aspire to become a noble.
Some aristocracies like the British are supposed to be more opened than others
(apparently it was easier to become a noble in England than in the other countries),
but basically aristocracies need someone else also to joining few. When they wanted
to persuade the Lords to vote in favour to pass the Reform Act, they threatened them
with the idea of fludding the house of Lords with many new peers because that
would devace(?) their title.
Joining the aristocracy always requires time and money (some of which invested in
land). You didn't actually buy the title but it was as if, you have to persuade, to bribe
in order to become a peer.
Marriage was also a good way of getting into the aristocracy,
because ideally the aristocrats aim that marring among themselves, because that
would strengthen their prestige, the alliance to great families. It was often the case
that an impoverished peer would look a wife in the rising middle class. It was very
common that a man of the aristocracy would buy a daughter of a new industrialist
(commercial backgrounds), because she would bring lots of money that were needed
to keep up the lifestyle of an aristocrat.
Wives were normally very rich, and they might belong to a grand noble family, but
they could also commoners. They could keep, according to tradition, some money
Divorce was no contemplated at the beginning of the century; peers of the realm
could have a divorce, but the families they had to have the permission of the
Parliament (an Act of Parliament only the very rich could afford all the juridical
process — very rare).
Below the elite there were the commoners, “a member of the community having civic
rights; a burgess, citizen; especially a member of the general body of a town-council”.
Originally the commoners were not all the people; in the course of time the two things
became synonyms. This explains why traditionally only very few people could vote or
could be elected for the house of commoners.
More generally nowadays we interpret commoners as one of the common people, any
member of the commonalty. (Now applied to all below the rank of a peer.)
The landed gentry
:the lesser nobility: they were nobles but no peers, they couldn't sit in the House of
These were gentlemen: the idea of a gentile heart, someone who come from a gentile
family and who doesn't work with his own hands (he is a small land owner, but not so
small has to having to work his land by himself).
Esquire: term used to point out that this person belongs to a gentile family.
Knight (would address him as Sir) > not an hereditary title. They were just applied to
other person; may happened that someone who was a gentleman lost this (his father
was a gentleman, but he wasn't).
Baronet (would address with Sir/Lady) > used to be an hereditary title. They were still
commoners, and the aspiration of baronets to became Baron, an Earl — transform the
hereditary title in something more valuable and become peers of the realms.
The title was created in 1611 by James I.
Baronetess is not the wife of the Baronet. Baronetess it's very rare: a woman who is a
baronet in her own right: Dame.
In the course of time, the people who could be distinguished some way without being
in the ranks of the landed gentry would increase.
The more trade and industry develop, the more professionals would be certainly
considered commoners: lawyers, professionals, merchants, artisans, merchants and
shopkeepers, army and navy officers (were often the carriers chosen for the younger
sons of the great families).
The “lower orders”
Peasants who cultivated and work the land, servants, all sort of menial workers
(they work, but they aren't specialised) common soldiers and sailors.
The great problem of the late 18th early 19th (after the French Revolution) was that
there is a no-omogeneous society, far from having one single target. They all looked
to reforms, but they all had different agenda; the high society didn't like to be mixed
up with the lower orders. The modern world would increase the polarization, the
opposition between a small class of industrialists /those who owns the factories) and
the capitalists and then the working class (that they had nothing but their work).
Moral values and lifestyles
The very strong just apposition was between the aristocracy who had all the power in
the land, and the middle classes, who thought that they were producing most of the
wealth of the country by trading, commerce...and that count so little in the nation.
This was the real conflict at the time in moral values and lifestyles, that started in the
Aristocracy (small elite) Middle-classes (varied group)
Had its origin in war, in military; their ethos Ethos pivoting on self-sufficiency (in
was based on courage and honour: particular economically). It was a good
you expected to be brave and to have a thing to be able to support yourself, not to
strong sense of honour; they rather died derive your wealth from the State, the
than loosing a battle or running away. They community, not to be a burden on the
felt to be brave and in order to do the duty community.
to the State/King/Nation Ethos pivoting on
self-sufficiency (in particular economically).
It was a good thing to be able to support
yourself, not to derive your wealth from the
State, the community, not to be a burden
on the community.
Extravagant lifestyle, conspicuous Self-discipline and decorum.
consumption, exhibitions of the Moderate consumption, living within one’s
wealth, ostentation of their rich (they means, the traditional virtues associated
wouldn't be considered aristocrats by the with the middle orders of society. Tend not
other people if they didn't live like that). to exceed the income: to be in debts was
They show they could afford, they had to be considered very negative.
wasteful. They incur very large debts: they There were also many people called
spent more than they could afford. They “nouveau rich”, who had become very rich
were extremely rich, they had lots of land, in a very short time, and they were a bit
but they wouldn't want or couldn't sell their influenced by the aristocracy: they had so
land. The realm noble man doesn't mind much money, and they didn't know how to
incurring debts, in fact he decides not to spend his money, so they look that the
pay straight away his debts: he doesn't aristocracy had models.
pay punctually. People such traders,
lawyers...Tended to allow them to take their
time to pay for their clothes or services
Family was considered just as lineage, Family as domesticity, the fact of living
tradition, blood together, sharing and helping each other
Free sexual mores Discipline and sexual repression; marital
sex only (man more free than women). All
the stereotypical notion that we associate
to Victorian culture, are linked to the fact
that the middle-classes in the course of the
time became the hegemonic class, the class
that (doesn't really rule in political term)
dominate in term of cultural prestige during
the Victorian Age (Victorian novel hardly
speak of sex).
Sympathetic to the unruly lower orders of Tended to be more severe in their
society, to their lifestyles and judgment.
entertainments. The common people who According to aristocracy, poor people, were
weren't self-discipline, they were more liked responsible for their conditions.
by the aristocracy than the middle-classes. Aristocracy believed that poor people
Paradoxically, aristocracy also like games, weren't enterprising, weren't capable of
pleasure. self-discipline, they didn't know how to
spend or save money...they were lazy, and
spent lots of time in pubs.
Competition between middle-classes and aristocracy: during the period of the
Regency and the Wars with France, there were many people who were rich before
they lost their fortunes, and others who were poor and became very rich. The
“nouveau riche” tended to be sort of regarded with suspect and also envy by the
aristocracy, because aristocrats were sometimes no so rich as the members of the
When someone of the middle-classes became very rich, they started imitating the
upper-classes. They had lots of money, they didn't know how to spend them, and they
look at the up-aristocrats as models.
While the middle-classes became more gentile, there was also the opposite
phenomenon: some members of the aristocracy starting thinking they should reform a
bit their lifestyle, in order to be accepted as the rulers of the Nation by this new
middle-classes who has become so powerful.
In the course of 1830 there was a sort of reshaping of the upper-classes, and they
sort of subdue some moral extreme aspects of their lifestyle in order to be accepted
by the majority of people. It is again a sign that the times are changing and the
middle-classes are becoming important also socially and culturally; their own ideals
are no longer minority ideals, but starts being regarded as the mainstream ideals of
the British Nation. Even the upper-classes would be less implied to exhibit their
extravagant, their vices.
The reshaping of the aristocracy, to make it more acceptable, to show
that there wasn't just privileged people who didn't do anything good, was
to establish that they could be noble leader for the nation. This it's also something
visible in novels, especially in The Young Duke (a story of a typical young aristocrat,
who learns to
behave more properly, more responsibly to the Nation).
In Pelham: isn't' a real aristocrat, but a young man with a very distinguish gentile
family; he's a dandy, and he learns and also teaches to the members of his class how
to behave, how to go in Parliament and vote instead of wasting your time in pubs or
in fox's hunting. He tries to improve the moral quality of the aristocracy.
The Nation wanted more responsible, less frivolous rulers.
A relevant aspect was the importance of the land that primarily was linked to the
agriculture; the agricultural interests were strong at the time. But the land also meant
other types of wealth, especially in these years. There were coal mines (and other
types of mines) to be excavated in the lands, so if rich men hold areas which were
interested from this mineralogical point of view, could be a source of income. Coal
became more important because of the industrial revolution and urbanization. We
wouldn't associate the aristocracy immediately with the Industrial Revolution, the big
land-owners, the great aristocrats, hold most of the lands of the country, had also
planted to earn, they became rich also for that reason.
Another reason is that the growth of the city produced an increase in the value of the
lands surrounding the old urban centres. As the city grows, the land surrounding the
centre of the city became more expensive, because more people desire buying these
lands and sell or rent them for profit.
The bigger aristocrats, normally had at least one big large house in London, because
they had to be there when parliament was on (from January till June) and the Lords
had to be in time. This was called “The Season”, a time of parties, dances, dinners (in
London). All the aristocrats also had their countryhouses, and they were often more
than one, because often they had more than one title — duke, earl...
There was normally at least one which was identified as the ancestral home of the
family. Building houses or restoring them, was a typical aristocratic pastime and it
was also a way, some of them lost their fortunes because they spend so much money
in these houses.
SLIDE 4_REGENCY & THE DANDY
This period was called “regency” because was the time when the King George III was
declared insane and his son, the Prince of Wales, became Prince Regent (later
become George IV).
The regency was from 1811 to 1820 ('20 when George III died), but occasionally in a
more extended sense it's dated 1811-1837 when Victoria became Queen.
King George III was declared mad, but when he wasn't he was sort of very serious
monarch, he lived in a sort of Spartan way. King George III was very different from
his son, and he had had very bad relationship with him.
The Prince Regent wasn't young, almost 50 when became Prince Regent. His period is
noted for its elegance and the achievement in fine arts and architecture
which were largely stimulated in England (especially in London) by the fact Prince
Regent liked to be a Prince, a King, to spend his money, wanted to turn London into a
great capital. Much of what we know of central area of London nowadays, is due to
the fact that he paid importance architect to reshape the centre. On the one hand, it
was a time of great social and economic progress, especially the early years. But on
the other hand it was a sort of “Indian summer” of the aristocracy, a moment of
wastefulness & exclusiveness.
For the young people of '20, the young Benjamin Disraeli and his contemporaries, it
was something that they hadn't actually know this world of “Grandeur”; it was already
a bit ?faded? It was something slightly of the past, they were kids when these things
were happening. They looked at the Regency as something almost mythical and when
they became young adults the world was already a bit different.
The Prince Regent
The portraits the Prince was very vane, and he would like to be more than he actually
was. There is also something that connects with the image of Napoleon in a painting.
The Prince Regent was really jealous of Napoleon as a great leader and wanted to
The poor man says “If rich rogues like poor ones were for to hang, it would think the
land, such numbers would swing upon Tyburn Tree”.
Tyburn was a little village which became part of London; the area of Marble Arch. It
was the place where criminals were executed.
It was the house he lived in. This is a building that it was destroyed actually. When he
became king he was so happy to be that he wanted a new Royal Palace, but he didn't
have so much money to build a new Royal Palace from scratch, so he decided to allow
the dismantling of Carlton House and part of what he got from it, was used to build
Buckingham Palace. Buckingham Palace it was built in the '20 for George IV and it
became the Royal Palace and the administrative centre of the monarchy with Victoria.
Regent Street (designed by Nash)
Another important innovation regarded the city of London was that George IV wanted
that London should be a really grand capital and therefore pay the famous and
visionary architect Nash, to change the face of the city. One of the things he did, was
to build the famous Regent Street. Even at the time, the idea was that it would be the
centre for fashionable shopping; Nash didn't want any petty shop, butchers, grocers,
he wanted beautiful shops, “business of high quality”. The buildings nowadays are not
the same, because they were rebuilt sometimes, but the shape of the street is the
Royal Pavilion (Brighton)
It was built over a long period (it was started in 1787). It was built as a seaside house
when King George was the Prince of Wales, before he actually became the Prince
Regent. When he became Prince Regent he wanted it to be made bigger and more
beautiful, so it was enlarged. The style is a sort of Indian and it seems a more
suitable building for an oriental sultan than for him. It's not surprised that Victoria
didn't like this building and also Brighton, because in the mean time it had become a
very popular seaside and there was no privacy up there.
Blue Velvet Room
It was used for parties.
Most people associated dandy with the late 19th century and Oscar Wilde, but indeed
he was originally a creation of the Regency Period.
OE: One who studies above everything to dress elegantly and fashionably; a beau, fop
The word “dandy” is quite recent: late 18th — early 19th century. The idea of a man
that takes notice of his clothes, was not new, but there was something new about the
According to Ellen Moers
Simple foppery (or affectation in male costume) is as old as time [THERE WERE
ALWAYS MAN THAT WERE VERY KEEN ON THEIR LOOKS — SOMETIMES A TARGET OF
ADMIRATION; MORE OFTEN A TARGET OF LAUGH]… But dandyism as a social, even
political phenomenon…was the invention of the Regency, when aristocracy and
monarchy were more widely despised (hence more nastily exclusive) than ever before
or since in English history [THE DANDY WAS A PRODUCT OF REGENCY, AND REGENCY
WAS A PERIOD WHEN THE STATUS OF ARISTOCRACY AND THE MONARCHY WERE
DEBATED, CRITICISED THAN NEVER BEFORE]. What the utilitarian middle class most
hated in the nobility was what the court most worshipped in the dandy [THE DANDY
HAD THOSE CHARACTERISTICS OF THE NOBILITY WHICH WERE HATED BY MIDDLE-
CLASSES AND WHICH WERE LOVED ESPECIALLY BY THE PRINCE REGENT] -- a
creature perfect in externals and careless of anything below the surface, a man
dedicated solely to his own perfection through a ritual of taste [A MAN DEDICATES
ONLY TO HIS OWN PERFECTION Through A RITUAL OF TASTE]. The epitome of selfish
irresponsibility, he was ideally free of all human commitments that conflict with taste:
passions, moralities, ambitions, politics or occupations [THE ONLY THING THAT
COUNTS FOR HIM WAS HIMSELF, HIS LOOK, HIS WELL-BEING: Extremely
CARELESS] ...a Hero so evidently at the centre of the stage that he need do nothing
to prove his heroism — never need, in fact, do anything at all [THE DANDY IS THE
EXACT OPPOSITE OF THE MIDDLE-CLASSES, HE TAKE CARE OF HIS OWN LOOK].
The 18th century fop…or “macaroni”
The 18th fop (negative term) was called also macaroni, a fashionable young man,
who dressed and often even spoke in a usual, effected way. He was very fastidious in
terms of clothes and also in terms of eating (he ate a lot of pasta that at the time was
so elite). He spoke using many French terms and wrote poems also with sort
of macaronic Latin and English. So he was a target of regency satire.
The macaroni is the precursor of the dandy, but they aren't to be confused. The
macaroni is a feminine while the quintessential regency dandy was a sort of virile,
masculine reaction to this effimenincy.
The first “real” dandy: George Brummell(“Beau” Brummell)
Brummell wasn't an aristocrat: he didn't belong to any of the grand aristocratic family,
he had no land, no coat of arms (“stemma di famiglia”) or such other things. And yet
he dictated the fashion, he was the ultimate arbiter of fashion in his time. He was a
friend of the Prince Regent, and he was apparently a charismatic man.
Brummell was quite different from previous versions of the fop, of the very elegant,
fine young man, particularly the 18th century manifestation of this typology of human
being — the fop, the macaroni. They are contemporaries because they used the collar.
Their clothes are coloured while our men are very severe nowadays.
George Brian Brummell (1778-1840)
“There are three great men of our age: myself, Napoleon and Brummell. But of we
three, the greatest of all is Brummell.” (Byron) — Bryon had a large ego. Having to
choose between Napoleon and Brummell, he chooses Brummell who is the greatest of
the mall, because he didn't do anything, and he still manages to have an impact on
his generation. Napoleon had done so much, but Brummell showed had just showed
himself to the world.
“[he was] a nobody, who made himself somebody, and gave the law to everybody”
(Mrs Gore) — She was more critical of the regency period. He was nobody because he
had no blood, but he decided what people should look like to be accepted in society.
Brummell was much talked and written about.
There are lots of characters inspired by Brummell by the literature of the time. Many
avatars of Brummell. In “The Young Duke”, there is one character at least,
called Anslie, who is reminiscent of Brummell. He is the superfine in society.
In “Pelham”, there is Mr. R... who was actually modelled very closely on the elderly
Brummell. Pelham goes to France, and when he comes back to England he stops
in Caley? To meet Brummell, who was in exile there.
As soon as he left England, Brummell had inspired lots of written comments on
himself. Collections of witticism, written by someone imitating his style, circulated
very soon. He became popular also in France (Balzac, Boudlaire they all wrote and
mentioned him). Interest in this charismatic figure carried on to the later time; even
Virginia Woolf wrote one essay about Brummell.
He was a commoner, that means he wasn't an aristocrat and didn't belong to the
great aristocratic families of the Nation. He came from a family of the middling ranks
(middle-class comes a bit later that the late 18th century. Was a varied social group
— included people who worked in trade: merchant, shopkeepers...). His father was
employed by the State, so he was a civil servant.
His parents decided to sent him to Eton and Oxford. If they had been merchant they
wouldn't have choose this type of school, because they wouldn't been aware that he
might have been corrupted by the aristocrats who attending Eaton and Oxford.
He was, even at school, he acquired a reputation for fashion, for being very sensitive
of fashion and a very young man of taste.
(Vivian Gray: the very first part. He was very precursory interested in his look, which
suggest that he was fashioning himself in a way on drawing inspiration from this
myths of Brummell).
People went to university much earlier than nowadays, in fact he left Oxford when he
was 16 (he didn't complete his studies).
Brummell was a friend of the Prince of Wales (before he became the Prince Regent),
who was interested in art, fashion and beauty. The young Brummell joined the
The military career was especially popular (as commissioner officer) among the
aristocrats. The firstborn would become the Lord, the Peer, and the other children
would often enter the army. The particular regiment he entered was the Prince own
Command (the prince was the main officer in that regiment).
These particular regiment, accompanied the Prince of Wales all over the place (they
were all fashionable, all very elegant young men that didn't fight).
He stayed in the Regiment for a while, and he resigns from his post in the army in
1798 and took a house in London. Here he ha d already made the name as a very
fashionable young man, so he was immediately admitted to all the
most exclusive clubs of London. Clubs were men institutions; certain clubs were
As a very fashionable well-connected young man he was quite rich, belong to a
wealthy family (not so rich as he would have liked). He spent more money than he
had actually at his disposal and as many young belonging to aristocracy did in those
days, he lived on credit (shopkeepers, servant, tailors...would be quite willing to sell
him things or services imagining that sooner or later he would have paid them back).
In the early years of the 19th century (actually before the actual Regent 1811), he
became an arbiter of fashion: not only he was very elegant, but he was enough to be
criticised or ?praised? by him to be disqualified or qualified to join certain elite circle.
He even manage for a while to change the style of cloths of the Prince of Wales
himself. The Prince used to dress in a very ?flashy?, vulgar and too colourful way.
1811 he quarrelled with the Prince Regent. There are lot of different stories circulating
about this, perhaps he was too arrogant or perhaps when the Prince became the
Prince Regent he felt he had to turn a new page in his life, not to have so many
contacts with his previous friends.
Brummell kept on living in London for some years, and he changed a bit his lifestyle;
he couldn't be at court so often, but he was still very much liked and feared? He
attend the clubs, gambled heavily and run into debt. Now that he was no longer a
special friend of the Prince of Wales shopkeepers maybe were no so willing to sell
things on credits: so life started to be difficult for him.
In 1816, he run away, escaped from his creditors and when to France. At the time
there was special prison for people who were in debts (debtors prison). The peers of
the realm (the great aristocrats) were extent from this: they could run huge debts,
without being imprisoned. One of the privileges of the aristocracy — applied only to
the peers not to all the relatives.
He lived in France till 1840: the death after his gradual long decline. At the beginning
he was still famous and popular and elegant...and so people like Pelham in the novel
used to goes and visiting. Gradually there was a change, and he became poor, he
couldn't keep up his elegance and everything was connecting with the edging and
The paradox of the dandy
The dandy was a very paradoxical creation of these times.
On the one hand his own figure and the idea of the superfine man, is an emphatic
affirmation of the aristocratic principles of the idea of exclusiveness (even more
exclusive because not the all aristocrats would rate as up to standard in Brummell
eyes) and leisure (crucial in these aristocrats lifestyles. They have nothing to do, they
didn't have an occupation: spent money and plan your time. Also, Brummell started
with the army but as soon as possible he decided to give it up because he didn't like
to have an occupation).
On the other hand is a very subversive character if you think about it, because he
wasn't at all recognised as a member of the elite: he made his way into the elite.
He was the living proof, the evidence that gentile birth wasn't enough to qualify as a
real gentleman. He had no title (not an Earl, Marques...not even a Baronet), no coat
of arms, no courage, no big house in the country (no ancetral-hall; in fact he had no
noble ancestral at all): he was completely different. What's made for his charm and
charisma was something very difficult to define and describe, what the France would
say a certain je-ne-sais-quoi (his taste basically, that is inborn in the human being).
Elegance for him was what matter. He was very critical of country baronet, people
who spend lot of time hunting or even on horse back, because they used to be not so
tidy, clean, dirty boots...he had a very particular idea of what gentleman should be,
very much focused on the surface, on the appearance.
Brummell was a product of the Romantic age, but wasn't a “romantic” character.
Stendhal was influenced by the dandy, Brummell, especially in “Le rouge et le noir”.
He thought “To seem sorrowful is not in good taste: You’re supposed to seem bored.”
— the dandy isn't passionate, he is never the victim of his own emotion, he is cool,
deliberate, non-introspective: he is artifical, and he prides in being artificial. He also
hides, because its aim at appearing natural, but in fact he would the product of much
self-training. It comes a very different character from what we associate with the
romantic temper and character (we associated with passionate, emotional, he
An arbiter of taste
Everything that was connected with the dandy was of superior taste (cloths,
accessories, snuff boxess... the meals were an offered to a very selected group of
friends: everything should be impeccable).
Style was crucial to him, in fact was the very opposite of being spontaneous and
relaxed. Style and self-discipline is restraint, is striving for perfection.
In a time when rich people used perfume, also to hide their smell (hygene was not to
our standard) is started a very concerned about the cleanliness. He was keen in
washing himself, shave his beard... he prided himself in not using perfume because he
didn't smell. He prided himself also in simplicity, in a linear style: no frills,
no fleshy colours, jewels, no lace — he wasn't overdressed (other dandies as the
young Benjamin Disraeli liked the overdressing).
He launched that what was important was the quality of materials.
He was also the inventor of the modern male costume, or suit. The original suit
became the uniform for large part of the male population of the civilised world;
eventually it would prove the male occupation.
On the one hand there were elements of the elegance of the elites, but
also with elements of taste that look forward to a more democratic age.
A man of wit
WIit was its crucial weapon: in confrontations with people, he was not only the most
elegant, he was also very witty and used words to cost ridicule on other people and
situations — witticism was the crucial weapon in awkward situations.
This wit was often based on two crucial rhetorical devices:
- exaggeration of trifles (little things, not very important things) — is evidence of his
extreme sensitive to detail nuance;
- understatement and nonchalance in matters of importance — he is so keen on the
type of sleeves you wear and then perhaps totally indifferent to very serious matters,
superior to many of the preoccupations that bother human beings.
This was way of looking at the world — what is important for him and what isn't.
Lady: “Have you ever tasted vegetables?”
Brummel: “I once ate a pea”
> His idea, his taste was so disturbed by that “one pea” that he never ate a pea after.
“Tis hell to a man of spirit to be contradicted by his tailor.” (Richard Garnett)
“Though starving at school, I never took twice of pudding, and paid sixpence a week out of my shilling to have my
shoes blacked.” (Pelham)
> How the fledgling dandy looks at the world.
At Eton young Brummell was smitten with the exceeding loveliness of a youthful damsel, the niece of
Colonel Brewster, a retired officer in the service of the East India Company... George Brummell would appear to have
He wasn't in love probably because
been as much in love as such an incarnation of vanity and conceit could be [
he was so self-centered but he seems to be in love, as much in love as he could be] ; but was suddenly
disenchanted. “How is it that you are never seen now with Colonel Brewster’s niece ?” asked one of his companions.
“Don’t speak of it, there’s a good fellow,” rejoined young Brummell, with a shudder; ” she asked for soup twice.”
young early love, perhaps because she lived in India when she was young, she asked for soup twice and
this disqualified her immediatly for young and totally un-romantic Brummell].
Taste interpheres with passion, so it was very difficult to fall in love.
Connection with aestheticism
“The making of one’s life into art is, after all, the first duty and privilege of every man.” (A. Symons)
“In all unimportant matters, style, not sincerity, is the essential. In all important matters, style, not sincerity, is the
essential.” (O. Wilde)
> Both sentences are not about Brummell, but they show trhe proximity with the world of wit and style.
Anti-romantic element in aesteticsm and in the position on the outlook on life of Brummell and himself
Words which occur very often in silver-forks fiction — synonyms of fashion
Ton — it's one of the most elegant and means also people of fashion
Fashion — is also what is fashion and fashionable people
To cut (someone) — doesn't mean to cut, but to break off and aquitance, to pretend,
to affect not to see him/her or to know him or to recognised him/he (ones
he quarrelled with the Prince Reagent — legend: Brummell spoke with a Lord without
looking at the Prince Regent, asking him “who is this fat friend of yours?”
Fine (as in “he is very fine…”) — sometimes means very fastidious
Bore — universal negative of the dandy. Everything was a bore.
The world — all the people who matter
Society — the high society
The Season — inevitably the season of fashionable life in London of picnic in the
parks...which coincided more or less with the time when Parliament was at work
(when all the peers were in London with their families). At the end of the season (end
of June), people would go to the countryside in their beautiful homes in the country
and those who weren't invited anywhere maybe (because they were cut by their
friends), had to stay in London.
SLIDE 6_BYRON AND HIS LEGACY
Literary contest - All the young authors, who started writing in the 20th century, were
heavily influenced by Byron.
"There are three great man of our age: myself, Napoleon and Brummell. But of we three, the greratest of all is
> Napoleon was also an important historical figure, a cultural icon at the time. Many young people looked
at Napoleon as the example of the "salf-made-man", the man that with its humble origin became an
Imperator?, grerat General. The young people set their own target in life and achieving them in spite of
the social constarnce? was embodied by Napoleon.
"Mad, bad and dangerous to know" (Lady Caroline lamb)
> The lady is one of the most famous among Byron's many lovers. When she got to know him, she wrote
down that sentence in her diary. She was keen on meeting Byron when he was a young man.
She was one of Byron's fans. We must think Byron as a poet but also someone who inflamed the
imagination of his readers in a very unusual way. We could compared it to the way in more recent time
film stars of rockstars catch the imagination of their public. She was an example of the Byronmania, to
identify this new phenomenon. Lady Caroline is useful for us because she introcues us to one aspect of
Byron: Byron as "model celebrity".
"We want Byron" (Disraeli, Vivian Grey)
> At one poin in the novel, there is a conversation between Vivian Grey and a friend. They discuss about
the situation of literature at the time. They said they didn't have any leader, any leading figure in that
period: they wanted someno like him (this was an heco? from "Don Juan", one of Byron's most famous
poems, which starts with the sentencec "I need a hero").
Two importants things:
- Byron as all the other poets of the Second Romantic Generation like Shelley, Keats,
died young (he was the oldest 37, in 1824).
- These young authors were influenced by Byron. Also the young Bronte(s) knew
Bryon's poems and he was one of the great influences.
Every young writers reacted to Byron and his works, even in some cases to reject the
Byronic legacy, but still it was an element of pronted reactions.
George Gordon Byron (1788-1824)
Byron three things:
a Regency aristocrat;
a Romantic poet;
a modern celebrity.
A Regency aristocrat: the 6th Baron Byron
When he was 21 he became inherited of the title of 6th Baron Byron. He was the hear
of an ancient and noble family. A Barony created in 1642, before the beginning of the
Civil World in England.
When he was born his family didn't know that he would be the hear of the family
because his father was a cadet, wasn't the firstborn of the family. Another children of
a rich family who was joined the army. He was known as John “Mad Jack” Byron (he
died in 1791, when his son was very young). His name suggests that he wasn't a
respectful person. He was a typical dissolute, dissipated young aristocrat; he was
addicted to gaming, playing card, beating; a bit of Don Juan, someone who seduced,
in fact his first wife was a married lady who had left her rich family to follow him (she
could divorce because of her richness). She died in childbirth, giving birth to two
twins: one girl survived, *Ausgusta Byron's half-sister
Catherine Gordon, Byron's mother was his father's second wife. She was a Scottish
heiress. Again she was a very rich woman, she belongs to a very rich and
distinguished family (lots of lands) and she was conquered by the very charming
Byron who preceded in squandering her fortune because she had to sell most of her
belongings in order to pay his debts, even left her for a while and join them again...so
he was not an ideal husband.
From his mother, Byron got his second name Gordon > the surname of the mother. It
was often the case, especially for members of distinguish family to carry on the
surname of the mother as a sort of other surname.
When the 5th Baron, known as the “Wicked” Lord (because he had killed in a duel a
relative) died in 1798 without children (he had quarrel with him, and then he died
before his father). He was his great-uncle, not his grandfather. This 5th Baron had
willingly destroyed the property of the family, he had let the house in Newstead Abbey
go in dissipated, because he ate his son so much that he didn't want to leave anything
to him. He wiollingly swaunded The money even killed 2 thousand deer (animals that
noblemen had in their parks and occasionally they went hunting) not to leave
anything to his son.
Then his son died and so this dilated Newstead Abbey sadly in disrepared, hardly fit to
be lived in was left to the young George Byron and his mother.
Newstead Abbey it was one of those Abbey that during the reformation in England
were turned into private homes.
You could be a Lord, and also could be poor (not poor as a poor man but not rich
enough to restore your property and to live up to the lifestyle that was expected of a
noble man). Young Byron went to school in Aderbeen & Dulwich, then to Harrow (by
1801 he was recognised hearl to the family) and he also made a name for
being quarrelsome and for piling up that's. Of course, he has any self-respecting jump
the aristocrat, he didn't take any notice of how much money he spent. His poor
mother had to keep on selling her things and cutting her own expenses in order to
support him in his sort of grand aristocrat life style in harrow. Then went to
Byron had one physical disability, he had a type of deformed foot, in fact he didn't
walk very well. For that reason he tended to overcompensate. He was also been very
keen at sports, trying to show that he could do anything — he was a great
swimmer, in fact It is known that he crossed the Helles Pont, that part that straight
which divides Asia and Europe.
In the course of the school years, he had passionate attachment both with girls and
male friends; within a small group of people he was known to be bysexual, but this
was not to be told to other people, because it was a crime at the time.
He started writing poems very early and publishing small collections of poems. One
collection called “Lazy hurs of idolness” of 1807 was attached by
the Edinburgh review, and he wrote as an answer this criticism his first satirical works,
which was called “English Bards and Scotch Reviewers”.
Between 1809 and 1811 he did as most aristocratic man would do at the time, a Gran
Tour. The time wasn't so favourable to travel, because it was the time of the
Napoleonic Wars (between England and France and in the Continent).
He took an unusual Tour, because he went to the Iberian peninsula, to Portugal, Spain,
then he did a cruise in the Mediterranean, reach Greece, Albania and
also Constantinople. This long tour was important because he grows lot
of inspiration from these experiences for his poems. In 1811, he came back to
England very soon because his mother died, and the 1812 he took up a set in the
House of Lords. He was a peer of the Realm, and he had a right to set in Parliament.
In 1812 He gave his first speech in the House of Lords, called “Maiden speech”. The
Lords were discussing a new law to punish those workers who had destroyed the new
machines, when people resented machine because they take away their jobs. The
Parliament was discussing that that should be capital punishment for this type of
crime. Byron was in favour of more leniency, spoke against making it a
capital crime because he said that these people, only poverty and desperation could
push people to do such things as destroying the machines. So he took a more lenient
Also in 1812 he published his first great success, “Child Harold's Pilgrimage” (I, II)
and became a celebrity in the following years.
[Byron in Albanian dress in 1813 — he was already a celebrity. The public was
encouraged to associated him to some of his heroes in his oriental tales].
“I woke up one morning and found myself famous”
Byron wrote “I published “Child Harold's Pilgrimage and I woke up one morning and
found myself famous”.
The book was a great success. The publisher was important, was John Murray.
He has published some copies but not too many, he didn't expect such success. All the
copies available were sold out in three days. It's surprising how the news went
around about this book, because at the time there weren't television o radio and also
newspapers were quite expensive.
Most of the people who could afford to buy books, bought the book, and he became a
star of the high society. He was invited by fashionable people, he was elected
the member of the most exclusive clubs and was chest by female fans who fell in love
with him reading the adventure of Childe Harold.
Here started having a very intense sexual life (he had already quite a sexual life
before). One of the reasons why he was attracted to the East is that European people
in the East could be freer than at home — for instance in Turkey homosexual is not
considered as bad as in Europe.
One of this lady was Lady Caroline Lamb, that was the wife of William Lamb
Melbourne a rising Whig politician who will become the Prime Minister of Queen
Caroline Lamb was the niece of Lady Georgiana Cavendish, the Ducches of
Most of Byron's lovers were discrete, also Lady Caroline was a writer gifted? poet.
When Byron left and married Annabella Milbank (in 1815) she wrote a novel where
she told a story of the relationship with Byron. This was a terrible scandal because it
was making this private things public.
One of the person with whom he had a connection is his half-sister Aususta Leig. She
and Byron were not in touch for a long time, since they were kids, and they met again
when she was married. Apparently they had a relationship and the daughter was
born — Medora— (it was never quite clear). When his wife separated from him, the
incestuous story became general knowledge.
Byron was very free with his money and many times in debts, didn't have money to
restore his property... So like many young aristocrats, he decided to find a rich wife,
that was promptly found in Annabella Milbank. She was a very rich and high educated
woman, she had studied lots of subjects, even mathematics — Byron called her the
“Princess of Parallelogram”. She was also very religious. The exact opposite of Byron,
so this marriage was a recipe for disaster.
She resisted him for a while, because he was generally known, but he was very
charming, and she eventually has the idea that she could change him -didn't work in
that way- so in January 1815 they got married. He was violent, moody, restless, didn't
like to stay at home and live with his wife. About a year later, in December 1815, her
daughter Ada was born.
He advises his wife to go for some time and live with their parents; she went there
and never come back. Anabella decided to separate from Byron and in1816 they
separated not with a private separation, but a legal one. He tried to resisted, but he
was persuaded and had the legal agreement.
He didn't even try to have custody of his daughter (usually at the time children would
go with the father and not with the mother -more father's than mother's children).
At the time rumours started circulated about the reason why he wanted to leave him:
some people starting said that she have discovered that Byron had a daughter with
his half-sister; other said that she couldn't accept that he had many lovers...so, in
April 1816 he decided to leave England (he never come back). The public opinion who
had made an idol of him had turned against him; he was considered a shameless
He wrote a poem for his wife, called “Fare thee well” it was circulated among friends
then it suddenly was published by some newspapers.
His poems started being influenced by the reaction of the public opinion; is unclear if
the poem was written to persuade Annabella (it was in fact a love declaration) or it
was a way to show himself as a good husband after all, but not show it to her, show it
to the public.
He went first to Switzerland, when he met the Shelley. He had ranted “Villa
Diodati” on lake.
From 1822 to 1823 he travelled in Italy: Venice, Rome, Revenna, Pisa, Genoa (then
Greece). In the meantime, his mother-in-law Judith Noel (Lady Milbank) died and left
his property and his surname to him (strange, considering that she was the mother of
his wife, and they were separated) — Noel Byron. He used to sign himself NB like
When he was in Italy, he took an interest in the Italian independence movement
(the carbonari) and he also got contacted by the filo-helenic movement, a movement
of opinion in Europe that supported the Greek war of independence against the Turks.
He gave to this cause a lot of money; he sold some of his properties in England to
finance the Greek war an eventually he went to Greece where and took part in military
actions and in 1824 died (not in fighting, got some fever). Apparently he didn't want
to live in Greece.
Some people wanted to bare him in Westminster Abbey, but the Abbey
refused because of his immoral life.
His friends collected money to build such a monument for him. It took many years to
be completed and it was rejecting by several institution. Such was the moralistic
reaction of the Victorians to Byron that they didn't want to have this statue. The
statue was accepted by Trinity College Cambridge, where he had studied (it's still
After his death, huge quantities of biographical materials started circulating, there was
an enormous interest in Byron, precisely because his reputation was
so shavy? That there was such an interest in him. He had left some Memoirs to his
publisher Murray. The Memoirs were very explicit about his wife, doing in the last few
years. Murray was very embarrassed having read the Memoirs. They circulated among
friends and it was decided that the best thing was to burn them, so in may 1824 this
manuscript was destroyed, was burn (there is no copy, so we don't know anything
about what was really written in it).
Poetry (mainly narrative)
Byron's life was the typical life of a Regency aristocrat; there was also something
excessive in his behaviour, in his way of being aristocrat, which brought him into
collision even with his own class as well as with the Nation itself.
Doesn't seem to have damaged his general reputation in that he was admired,
imitated, but it seems somehow to have alienated him from his world so that he felt
decided to go away from England to go in exile. He was annoyed with the way British
public opinion had reacted to his own personal affairs.
So there was a sad rebellious element in Byron, while most aristocrats led excessive
lives without being rebels — important difference.
His years of exile, his interest in carboneria in Italy and in Greek war show that he
would like to be something more than an aristocrat and a poet, he wanted to be also a
man of action, someone who did something, not just someone who was famous with
nothing much to show for himself. This going to Greece, selling his property and
investing money in Greek course, made him one of Greece's national heroes. Are
something a bit different from average aristocrats and also something that arguably
attracted the younger people like Disraeli and Bulwer who were young intellectuals but
didn't really fancy themselves as just writers, they would like to be politicians, men of
action. This was also one reason why Byron could be an attractive model.
Byron was a poet, but he never considered him a professionist; he was an aristocrat,
he didn't like to have a job, he wanted to be a leader of people and not just someone
who paid to write. In fact in the early year, he rejected any offer of money. His
publisher, Murray, wanted to be sure that he would always be the publisher of Byron
because he got lots of money. He for a long time rejected payment, and then he
changes his arrangement because he decided that he wanted the money, not for
himself but for some friends. He was obviously something completely different from
other poets, who liked to be paid — it would be a shame for an aristocrat to accept
Things came so easy and natural to him: he had a great facility for writing verse, he
just wrote poems.
A selection of his most famous poems
They are long poems and many narrative poems (novels or novella in verse). A
difference from the Romantic Poets, because we normally associated them with lyrical
poetry, the expression of the single self. He tended to write very long poems and
inside of them there are lyrical passages that come within narrative text.
Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage I-II (1812);
Tales in verse: The Giaour (1813);
The Bride of Abydos (1813);
The Corsair (1814);
The Siege of Corinth (1815);
Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage III (1816) and IV (1818);
Manfred (1817) (closet drama — not meant to be performed);
Don Juan I & II (1819);
Sardanapalus (1820); Cain (1821);
Don Juan XV & XVI (1824).
Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, A Romaunt 1 & 2 (1812)
The poem that made him famous, that he wrote when he came back from his Grand
Tour. A “Romaun”: archaic form for “romance”. He decided to use a mock-Tudor
diction. He wrote his romance as if it was one romance of the time should had read
(“The fairy queen” had a sort of influence)
Childe: with the “e” is an archaic spelling, with an archaic meaning. Because a
“Childe” was a young man who was a candidate for becoming a knight.
He used Spenserian stanzas which was 8 lines (ottava) plus an Alexandrin at the end
(a longer twelve syllables verse). Very difficult to practice.
The work was dedicated to “Ianthe”, a pseudonym for a young girl. She was 11 and
was the daughter of someone who might have been one of his lovers.
It was published by John Murray (an important and very respectable publisher). He
wasn't politically oriented, but generally speaking he was closed to the Tories, because
he published “Quarterly Review”, which was a very important Tories cultural journal.
The story is a story of an attractive young man who is precociously disillusioned with
life, is bored (in the first stanza) and he decided to travel.
This is the first example of a Byronic hero. He is very young therefore, so is no so
somber as other Byron heroes, but he already has a past, some sins.
This was his major work, a narrative poem with all the features. It was immediately
considered as a not biographic work, because everybody knew that Byron had been to
the places where Harold goes (Iberian Peninsula, Mediterranean, Greek Islands).
People assumed that he was using his own experiences and meditation to write this
book. Not only read as a poem, a fiction, but also a sort of travelogue (someone,
preferable fa mouse or well-known, who travel and write).
It was the first great commercial success. The problem with these poems is that they
are very long. What people did at the time, is to extract pieces from these poems. So
it could happen that people were enthusiastic about Byron poems, without actually
having read them, but just having read maybe a review of the poem, where you were
given the summary of the story and when you were given plenty of quotations of the
nice bits. Byron became in time anthology, so publisher could extract pieces so that he
could be read even by those who would otherwise be disturbed by other aspects of his
People thought that Byron was the greatest poet of his generation, and there were
very annoyed with him for being immoral, because they thought that a great poet
should particularly strive to give good example and to produce moral literature, not
immoral. He had such a strong ability to impress readers that he should put it to a
Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage I (1812)
Childe Harold was he hight: but whence his name
And lineage long, it suits me not to say;
Suffice it, that perchance they were of fame,
And had been glorious in another day:
But one sad losel soils a name for ay,
However mighty in the olden time;
Nor all that heralds rake from coffined clay,
Nor florid prose, nor honied lies of rhyme,
Can blazon evil deeds, or consecrate a crime.
hight: ancient form meaning “was named”.he came from a long lineage, but I'm not going to tell you his
surname: let's call him Harold [he doesn't want to tell us from what family he came]. It's enough to know
that they were a brave family, that they were glorious [the idea is that the noble family, to which Harold
belong, had some blacksheeps, a bad man, a worthless (losel). Someone who is unworthy of his name,
can ruin (soil) the name of the all family]. Heralds is used again in a very specific term, he related to
those persons who were officially employed to oversee ceremonies, to carry on ceremonial messages: it
means that no heralds can extract (rake — rastrello, libertino) from the dead (coffined clay). Nothing
that herolds can say about the dead, no poetry that perhaps lies making something better than it really
was, can describe positively something bad.
> The first thing that we know is that his family, probably had a sort of skeleton in the closet, something
that has marked and ruin the family and that nothing could embellish, (something bad can't be
Childe Harold basked him in the Noontide sun,
Disporting there like any other fly;
Nor deemed before his little day was done
One blast might chill him into misery.
But long ere scarce a third of his passed by,
Worse than Adversity the Childe befell;
He felt the fulness of Satiety:
Then loathed he in his native land to dwell,
Which seemed to him more lone than Eremite’s sad cell.
There is a parallelism between the fly and child Harold. Harold was as happy in the sun as a fly is in the
sun (noontide). He hadn't idea that something bad was happened, so he was a careless young man that
didn't think about the future, he just enjoyed himself in the present (like a fly in the
sunshine). What happened to poor Childe: nothing really bad happened to him (worse than adversity) but
he had so many dissipated experiences that became to disgusted with the pleasure of life. Therefore, he
hated (loathed) his native land and decided to go away. His native land became to him as tight as
a nasty place to live in as an eremite (more lone than Eremite's sad cell).
> He's young but enchanted with modern life (elite). Modern aristocrats don't have dragons to slay as in
the fairy queen or don't have enemies to fight on the battlefield. So the life becomes a sterile chase of
pleasure after pleasure, something that eventually bores in our child Harold.
For he through Sin's long labyrinth had run,
Nor made atonement when he did amiss,
Had sighed to many though he loved but one,
And that loved one, alas! could ne’er be his.
Ah, happy she! To ’scape from him whose kiss
Had been pollution unto aught so chaste;
Who soon had left her charms for vulgar bliss,
And spoiled her goodly lands to gild his waste,
Nor calm domestic peace had ever deigned to taste.
Topos: he had many sexual affairs, and he never said he was sorry or apologised for what he had done
(atonement). He declared his love to many (sighed to many), but he loved only one (though he loved but
one). The only one he really loves, he couldn't have (and that loved one, alas! Could ne’er be his). He
was very passionate about someone who wasn't available for him and therefore he had all the other
women he can imagine as an impossible substitute for the woman he really couldn't have. Lucky she that
manage to resist his charm, because she would have been polluted by his kiss — his love was bound to
polluter (happy she! To 'scape from him whose kiss). Then he lose interest and leave her charms for
vulgar bliss (he would have gone with other women, prostitutes, instead of staying faithful to this
woman). The young woman was very rich, he would have used as his father all her money, spoiled her
fortune, to pay his own debts, like many young man did at the time (and spoiled her goodly lands to gild
his waste). He wouldn't have been happy just with domestic bliss (Nor calm domestic peace had ever
deigned to taste).
> There is this idea of someone who is capable of passion but also who's passions are easily spent and
consume, someone who is restless (to settled down) within domestic environment. He loves this
young lady, but he wouldn't have like to live with her, because that wasn't the sort of life he liked.
And now Childe Harold was sore sick at heart,
And from his fellow Bacchanals would flee;
‘Tis said, at times the sullen tear would start,
But Pride congealed the drop within his e’e:
Apart he stalked in joyless reverie,
And from his native land resolved to go,
And visit scorching climes beyond the sea;
With pleasure drugged, he almost longed for woe,
And e’en for change of scene would seek the shades below.
Now after all his experiences he's become bored and sick — feeling of nausea (sick at heart — quote from
Hamlet). Bacchanals means people who joined in the orgies, parties with him. He's now no longer happy
of their company, and he goes away from them (flee). Some say that sometimes he so unhappy with
himself that he would almost cry. But he doesn't really cry because he's too proud for crying (pride
congealed — e'e is an ancient spell of eye). He is no longer with his friends, but he walk on his
own — romanticism (he stalked in joyless reverie). He decides to go away from his native land (resolved
to go) because he wants something totally different, no so much the pleasant heat but the very hot dried,
(scorching climes).He was so full, so sated with pleasure that he would something bad, sad to happen to
him (he almost longed for woe) and he would rather die and visit the realm of the death (shades below)
just for a change of scene than stay where he is. Everything's too easy to him.
The main ingredients for this Byronic hero given is something bad in his past even in
his family past.
Child doesn't mean kid, but some adolescent or 19-20 years old person, that had still
to be come a man. We also understand a tumultuous rich and sexual life; than there is
a frustrated passion and his restlessness, need to go beyond and not to stay.
This character is something would have a long fortune in the following centuries.
Authors who later on use the Byronic hero also tended to domesticated, to turning to
something that could be better adjusted to the new Victorian mentality.
In “Pelham” there are both the dandy and the Byronic hero (fascinating creature but
not the model to follow for anyone).
The Corsair (1814)
It was also called “oriental tales”; it was a tale in verse, in an oriental setting east.
Here he decided to try another metrical form, he uses the “heroic couplet”, which
again was a very illustrious metre in English poetry at the time (because of the great
poets of the 18th century like Pope used this verse).
Is interesting to remember that for these authors it was a very canonical verse and
generally used for noble purposes and expressing a very balanced view of the world
(especially in Pope). While here, the challenge is that Byron chooses this verse which
doesn't come easy at all to him, to tell a story and present a character, that with
difficult can fit within the major of this verse. The main character, the corsair is
called Conrad, and he is chief of the pirates, so he's a criminal an outlaw. He is the
symbol of desire, of unlimited freedom and boundless thought. He's no scared by
anything, he's quite willing to commit any crime.
The chief of the pirate is also something as an aristocrat, so the “aristocratic” outlaw
vs the corrupt establishment.
There is also an element of love. The man is terrible, but he's very affectionate to his
wife Medora, but he, at certain points, meets a very oriental
woman Gulnare (Turkish name). She is the favourite slave of the sultan, and he
eventually finds himself in prison by this sultan and the woman, who's immediately
falls in love with him, decides to risk everything and save him. She turns to be more
brave; she dares because she actually goes and kills the sultan. Then he goes back
home, Medora dies, but they don't “live forever happily”
because Gulnare disappeared. There is a strong sense of guilt, though the guilt is
never made explicit.
This passage of the tale it's in a moment when he's in jale, and he thinks about his
past. He reviews his whole life and feel the burden of everything bad that he has
done. It describes the introspection of the heroes. A powerful description of a
tormented mind. Byron was a great describer of the human soul.
Even in that lonely hour when most it feels,
And to itself all — all that self reveals,
No single passion, and no ruling thought
That leaves the rest as once unseen, unsought,
But the wild prospect when the soul reviews —
All rushing through their thousand avenues-
Ambition's dreams expiring, love's regret,
Endangered glory, life itself beset;
I'he joy untasted, the contempt or hate
Gainst those who fain would triumph in our fate;
The hopeless past — the hasting future driven
Too quickly on to guess if hell or heaven;
Deeds, thoughts, and words, perhaps remembered not
So keenly till that hour, but ne'er forgot;
Things light or lovely in their acted time.
But now to stern reflection each a crime;
The withering sense of evil unreveal'd,
Is'ot cankering less because the more conceal'd —
All — in a word — from which all eyes must start,
That opening sepulchre — the naked heart
Bares with its buried woes, till Pride awake.
To snatch the mirror from the soul— and break.
The idea that in the past of Byronic hero there is something he has done that he shouldn't have done
(crimes, sexual crimes, that look pleasant but have consequences). The Byronic hero is generally a man
with a past (no woman because implied no purity. Byron made a criminal man an object of interest.
Especially his female readers, were implied to consider them with sympathy: they weren't villains, but
people with an unrevealed past. There was the idea, (naked heart) that Byron was sincere more than
anyone else. “Naked heart” should be his own heart and not the heart of his character. There was a very
strong tendency to identification of Byron and his hero.
A strong piece of evidence that he encouraged speculation about proximity with his
hero, it's “Manfred”.
Manfred was published in 1817. He tried a different form, something that he had no
written before, a closet drama/drama in verse. He chooses as his metre “blank verse”
the crucial, the most important verse in the history of British theatre (also used by
Shakespeare). He changes again and surprised his reader this is choice.
This dramatic poem was written while he was in Switzerland, and he lived at
Villa Diodati, Geneva (one of the reason why the Alps are the setting for it).
Byron denied been influenced by Goethe's Faust, but a friend read and translated
orally for him “Goethe's Faust”, so he was a bit influenced.
The poem is the story of a sort of super human, who in count several strange
characters. We have a Faustian, a rebellious hero tortured by guilt, a strong remorse
for some transgressions, that one suspects though never clear spelt out was
the incest with his sister (rumours circulated about affair with his sister) — the story
about an incest.
It's this sort of interaction between private sphere of the poet and the situation of the
marketing of his works (the way they were advertised...), that is what makes critic
incline to read Byron as one first importance example of that modern celebrity culture.
People took part in his emotion.
Here there is one of the crucial passages, when he speaks with the witch, one of the
weird characters he meets in the course of the play. He speaks about the beloved
woman, which is called Astarte (name of oriental goddess, a sort of Venus, a mother
figure) — incestuous passion.
She was like me in lineaments-- her eyes
Her hair, her features, all, to the very tone
Even of her voice, they said were like to mine;
But soften'd all, and temper'd into beauty;
She had the same lone thoughts and wanderings,
The quest of hidden knowledge, and a mind
To comprehend the universe: nor these
Alone, but with them gentler powers than mine,
Pity, and smiles, and tears-- which I had not;
And tenderness-- but that I had for her;
Humility-- and that I never had.
Her faults were mine-- her virtues were her own--
I loved her, and destroy'd her!
With thy hand?
Not with my hand, but heart- which broke her heart
It gazed on mine, and wither'd. I have shed
Blood, but not hers-- and yet her blood was shed--
I saw, and could not stanch it.
> This is the moment when he goes near to say clearly there was the incest. It could be taken
as a biorgraphic confession. He carried on with this sort of poetry a bit melodramatic and then
during his exile he started being disliking even his own (he wrote “Don Juan”).
She was my twin — so similar even the voice (she was like me), but she was a lady therefore everything
was a bit soften in me (but soften'd all but).[Manfred is a bit like Faust, in that he seems to be interested
in occult sciences, in magic, something that goes beyond the realm of fact] She also had the same
solitary thoughts and wanderings of the mind (she had the same lone thoughts and wanderings). She not
only had these (nor these alone), she had also other things that I don't have: she had a sweeter nature
that I don't have (pity, and smiles, and tears). She had also tenderness that I also had, but only for her,
and she had also humility that I never had (humility — and that I never had). We had the same fault (her
faults were mine), but she was more virtue than me. The confession: I destroyed her with my heart, by
loving her. The witch says “Did you kill her?" (with thy hand?) I loved her and this broke her heart. She
saw that I loved her, and this was too much and her heart wither. We know that in his past Manfred had
also killed someone, but not her, not this particular blood (I have shed blood, but not hers). She died
because perhaps she committed a suicide (her blood was shed). I thought that she was died for loving
me. I loved her so much, but I couldn't do anything to prevent her die (I saw, and could not stanch it -
To stanch: stop blood to coming out of the veins).
Don Juan, I-XVI (1819-1824)
Most of the works of last period were satiric poems, but the most famous it was “Don
Juan”, that it was criticised as the more immoral and outrageous poem.
It was published in instalment?; when he was abroad he wrote and then send each
canto to his publisher, who was embraced: Murray was a very serious person.
Byron wrote 17 cantos, and he started the 17 when he died (unfinished).
It's connected with a very famous Spanish man, but Byron reverse the legend,
because in his cantos Don Juan is an ingenuous young man, a teenager, and he is
seduced by women (the “real” it's an aggressive personality). The first woman who
seduces him is a friend of his mother, Julia.
In this passage they are in a garden and it's the moment when passion takes the
upper end. She's a friend of his mother (younger than her), married to a young man.
She meets repeatedly the young Juan, then starting to be too friendly.
And Julia sate with Juan, half embraced
And half retiring from the glowing arm,
Which trembled like the bosom where 't was placed;
Yet still she must have thought there was no harm,
Or else 't were easy to withdraw her waist;
But then the situation had its charm,
And then--God knows what next--I can't go on;
I'm almost sorry that I e'er begun.
Even then when they were sitting so close, she says, she must have thought that she was innocent (she
must have thought there was no harm). But it was pleasant to be so closed (the situation had its
charm).The narrator (an important character in the story), declared himself embarassed, because the
virtue lady is about to yield to passion. He regret having started the story (I can't go on; I'm almost
sorry that I e'er begun).
> The young people are quite emotional. None of them is a serial seducer, they are young and passionate
Oh Plato! Plato! you have paved the way,
With your confounded fantasies, to more
Immoral conduct by the fancied sway
Your system feigns o'er the controlless core
Of human hearts, than all the long array
Of poets and romancers:--You're a bore,
A charlatan, a coxcomb--and have been,
At best, no better than a go-between.
He apostrophe to a platonic philosohyy, because it's moredangerous to conduct the morality then
anything that poets have ever written. Platonic philosophy idealising the spiritual part of men, imagines
that this spiritual intelectual (the soul of man) can controls the passions; the imaginary power that your
system pretends that can't control passions (the controlless core oh human hearts). The philosophy by
teaching you that you can control these parts, misleads you (you're a bore, a charlatan, a coxcomb). He
accused Plato to have been an intermidiate (go-between - ruffiano) a match-maker.
And Julia's voice was lost, except in sighs,
Until too late for useful conversation;
The tears were gushing from her gentle eyes,
I wish, indeed, they had not had occasion;
But who, alas! can love, and then be wise?
Not that Remorse did not oppose Temptation;
A little still she strove, and much repented,
And whispering "I will ne'er consent"- consented.
This is the moment when the lady yields to passion. Her voice has become very thing, lost in sighs (voice
was lost, except in sighs). She almost cries and says that it would have been bettar behave differently (I
wish indeed they had not had occasion). But who can be in love and be wise? (But who, alas! can love,
and then be wise). There is a moment when she realised and she felt guilty of what she was doing. He
describes funnily the torn moment between passion and consciouss.
This is the beginning of Don Juan adventures (then the husband descovers all). The
narrator is always a bit joking about the story. Most of the poem is just funny; the
people of the time, especially the Victorians in the course of time they didn't like it at
all, or they pretending they didn't like it. In this poem, one important element is the
narator, that is "Byron", a more mature author compared to the young man who
describes the story. He creates the impression of himself looking at himself when he
was a young boy and was seduced by women.This other passage is the end of canto I,
where the narrator speaks more about himself and explains what sort of person he is.
But now at thirty years my hair is grey
(I wonder what it will be like at forty?
I thought of a peruke the other day--)
My heart is not much greener; and, in short, I
Have squandered my whole summer while 't was May,
And feel no more the spirit to retort; I
Have spent my life, both interest and principal,
And deem not, what I deemed--my soul invincible.
He's saying that although he's still a young man he feels he looks old, a bit older than he is, perhaps
because he has lived so much. He also wonders what he will be when he's forty (I wonder what it will be
like at forty). Also his heart is a bit aged (my heart is not much greener), because he has done in his
early use. He has done so much in May, that he has used all sort of energies that he could had had for
the course of the summer, for his years when he was 30-40. (I have squandered my whole summer while
't was May). Economical metaphore, using the words interest and principal (a technical term, used to
indicate capital). People who have money, used to gave also interest from money.If he was wise, he
would have spent just the interest, and wouldn't touch the principle, but he have already spent all the
money. He doesn't think that his soul is still invicible:as a young man he used to think that it was, but
now that he become a bit older and more realistic he no longer thinks so.
No more--no more--Oh! never more on me
The freshness of the heart can fall like dew,
Which out of all the lovely things we see
Extracts emotions beautiful and new,
Hived in our bosoms like the bag o' the bee.
Think'st thou the honey with those objects grew?
Alas! 't was not in them, but in thy power
To double even the sweetness of a flower.
He says that no longer his heart is capable of producing honey or feeling the sweetness of life. He makes
a simile between the bees (that extract nectar and then make honey from flowers) and the freshness of a
young heart, of a usefull person, still unspoiled by life, can extract emotions, beauty, happiness from
most things, certainly from beautiful. But now it's no longer so, it's not that things, people, women..are
worse now than before, it's my heart that doesn't transform them into honey, it's myself. His life is
impoverished now, because he has no longer that ability to transform things, to perceive them throw the
eyes the feelings of unspoiled use – innocence.
> there is always the idea that he done something wrong (even the narrator). He has spent too much of
his energies when he was young (same pattern of Chile Harold, because he lived a very intense life for a
short while, than he feels sick).
No more -- no more -- Oh! never more, my heart,
Canst thou be my sole world, my universe!
Once all in all, but now a thing apart,
Thou canst not be my blessing or my curse:
The illusion's gone for ever, and thou art
Insensible, I trust, but none the worse,
And in thy stead I've got a deal of judgment,
Though Heaven knows how it ever found a lodgment.
Byron used these sort of funny and unusual rhymes.The heart of the young byronic hero was the
universe to him, but now it's no longer so.
My days of love are over; me no more
The charms of maid, wife, and still less of widow,
Can make the fool of which they made before,--
In short, I must not lead the life I did do;
The credulous hope of mutual minds is o'er,
The copious use of claret is forbid too,
So for a good old-gentlemanly vice,
I think I must take up with avarice.
This is a famous passage that the young Disraeli paraphrases in his book.It's not only his heart, also his
body has aged, perhaps he has drunk too much when he was young, so now in order to keep fit he has to
give up the sort of things, food and drink (claret) - is a sort of wine) the he used to take.He says that he
can't drink, eat and make love too much, but unfortunately the only respectable vice that he can take up
is to spend his money that it's so bad for an aristocrat, really been reduced is something very unpleasant
(I must take up with avarice).
It's an example of a methapoetic inclination. He seems to criticised, to make fun of
the way the young Byron used to write (“I don't want to write anymore as I did”).
Don Juan, canto XIII (1823)
But Adeline was not indifferent: for
(Now for a common-place!) beneath the snow,
As a volcano holds the lava more
Within -- et cætera. Shall I go on? -- No!
I hate to hunt down a tired metaphor,
So let the often-used volcano go.
Poor thing! How frequently, by me and others,
It hath been stirr'd up till its smoke quite smothers!
He was about to start with a simile about what happened under the snow or under the volcano that inside
is got lava. This sort of metaphoric use of volcano was something that could be found in his previous
works: to describe the tempestuous and the strong feeling of the byronic hero.Shall can I carry on the
simile about the volcano and the passion? No it's boring, used so much (Shall I go on? -- No!).We poets,
had used it so often that we are almost talked with the smoke of the volcano (Poor thing!).
> His affectionate readers at home in England, were had been conquered by the poet with that sort of
metaphore, of descrition of internal feeling of the byronic hero. Now I give you something else.
I'll have another figure in a trice: --
What say you to a bottle of champagne?
Frozen into a very vinous ice,
Which leaves few drops of that immortal rain,
Yet in the very centre, past all price,
About a liquid glassful will remain;
And this is stronger than the strongest grape
Could e'er express in its expanded shape.
Immediatly we moved to a bubbly bottle of champagne, we are making the passion more frivolous.To
describe this woman who is apparently so cool and cold, but in fact she was not indifferent, he used this
new metaphore. Just imagine to put a bottle of champagne in a freezer, it is almost frozen up just the
core, the glass of this champagne in the middle. This bottle of champagne is probably stronger than the
strongest grape in its expanded shape.
> This way, using a very frivolous metaphore, to describe the passion of this woman.
Romanticism, celebrity & celebrity culture
Don Juan in an interesting long poem, and different from the previous, the works that
had made Byron famous. This is the poem in which he make fun at his public and at
himself; he smiles at his previous works. He's more incline to laugh than to take
It was hugely popular, because it was also a sort of social game to try and guess
about the characters.
In Byron there is distention between a moody confessional self-centred type of poetry
(the one than make him famous) and this sort of satirical poetry, which isn't normally
associate with romantic poetry, but as a matter of fact, there were quite a lot of
satirical poetry written in the Romantic Age.
Due to a very selected perception of the period that we come to associated the poetry
of this time with one specific type of lirical poetry, which is just one tiny bit of the
general output of the poet of the period, but also of the romantic poets themselves.
Byron was an aristocrat, was a poet, was a modern literary celebrity, generally well-
known. Precisely because his readers projected so much of themselves into Byron,
were fashinated so much with him. They reading the poems believe they were reading
What is a literary celebrity? “It's a historically determinate form of the relationship
between readers and writers”. It's not just being famous.
Quote from Elfenbein, Byron and the Victorians
“I distinguish the celebrity from merely famous people as a figure whose personality
is created, bought, sold and advertised… Pope, Sterne, and Radcliffe were famous
authors, but Byron was the first to belong to a fully commercial society”.
Quote from Eisner, Nineteenth century poetry and literary celebrity
“Poets writing in Britain in the 19th century participated in a burgeoning [flourishing]
culture of literary celebrity in which readers responded to writers with powerful
feelings of fascination, desire, love or horror. Besotted [excessive enthusiasm]
readers wrote fan letters, sought autographs and souvenirs, adopted the clothes and
style of their literary heroes, and elevated ‘homes and haunts’ of famous writers into
Even the poet of the first Romantic generation (Coleridge, Worthsworth), made the
Lake District famous, and people would go there to see the cottage where they lived
etc. It became a bit of the mania of the time.
Periodicals and anthologies were crucial in the marketing of Byron
Books were very expensive at the time, so even small collection of poems would be
too expensive for many readers. But Byron could reach many more people throw
periodicals and anthologies.
“Regardless of a critic’s opinions, a typical review was interesting because it included
extensive quotations and detailed summaries; such excerpts widened Byron’s
potential audience” People would borrow a periodical, fine there a revie of Byron's last
poem or collection, they would learn the plot of these poems and find some long
quotation, the best bits, and that's how they knew Byron (not because they have read
all his poems). These bits were the “‘beautiful’ [moments, passages, because they
were that passages that reviewrs thought beutiful, and therefore the readers
recognised them as beautiful] to be admired by those aspiring to taste and beauty”.
Byron was so famous because he was also a great public figure and one of the first
real modern celebrity.
The allure of the aristocrat
If Byron was so interesting, it was because he had an interesting life, it was because
he was an interesting poet, but it was also because he was an aristocrat. Byron’s rank
guaranteed for consumers that his subjectivity was special. So, you were not just
reading about anyone you were reading about a real aristocrat, a peer of the realm.
The critic say what people really were so keen on? What really attracted them in his
poems? Was that they seem to held out hope to the consumers than they were special
above the commonplace. If you are able to appreciate Byron, you are above the
commonplace, you have a special sensitivity.
Even hints of unspeakable crimes in his poems appeared more plausible because they
came from an aristocrat. Because aristocrats have come from very ancient family,
they are also more powerful than other people.
Byron the aristocrat had a wider range of internal, as well as of external, experience
than his readers. He journeys, he went to the Mediterranean, to the Gran Tour; of
course very few of these readers could afford it – aristocrats have large opportunity
then “normal people”.
“Byron the aristocrat lived so that the lower orders could imagine”.
The young Disraeli followed his footsteps: he went to Albania, to Greece, to
Constantinople. When he came back he became a bit of a celebrity because of this.
SLIDE 7_SATIRE AND PARODY
Considering that Byron's "Don Juan" was the work which had the most significant
impact on the young Disraeli and on the other young people like Bulwer; considering
that it is a satirical work and that there are elements of satire and parody both in
Vivian Grey and in The Young Duke and also in Pelham, a good topic to deal is satire.
"A poem or (in later use) a novel, film, or other work of art which uses humor, irony,
exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize prevailing immorality or foolishness,
esp. as a form of social or political commentary". "Originally distinguished from
lampoon [: derisione] in being directed at a fault rather than at a person who has that
fault, though there is now considerable overlap between the two terms".
Ancient satirical poets, were supposed to target general fault, vices (hypocrisy,
brutality, excessively overbearing personality...) irrespective of the single person who
was an example of this. Many times, in satirical works, characters are got sort of
allegorical names, that very clearly revealed what they are and represent. On the
other hand, "lampoon" was used for something in particular: a person who is boring,
Nowadays (but also at the time), there was an overlap between the two terms. Many
of these satirical works in fact dealt with very topical situations, events. And
therefore, the characters were lampooned, were recognized by everyone as such.
Maybe they were also examples of a general vice, but they were also a very specific
Satire is an ancient word that comes from Latin. In Latin the satirical poems were
called "satura", giving the idea of being fool. Apparently originally it was a dish made
of fruit of different types that was offered to the goods, then it became dish, the name
of this particular type of poetry. It contains very heterogeneous bitten pieces.
There is another word which is often associated with "satire" that it is a Greek word,
satyr; it is a creature of the Greek mythology, one of the male companion of
In the course of time, the idea of satyr, was the idea of a creature in between nature
and culture, rude. Therefore, for a long time, in the Renaissance, people thought that
the word satire was related to the satyr for this reason. As a genre, a poetic genre
(formal verse satire) originally with very strict rules, but in modern times, it comes to
be synonym of a mode of representation, which is not
tied any longer to any particular poetic genre (satirical novels, films...).
The satirical author, or satirist, is someone who pretend to be angry, indignant at the
decadence, corruption, or hypocrisy of society/institutions/categories of individuals.
They feel compelled to say what they think, to express their dissent. Generally, the
satirical writer is morally or politically engagé, someone who has a reason to fight for
Types of satire
In the ancient time, there were different types of satire. The most bitter indignation is
associated in Latin literature with Juvenalian satire.
There are different types of satire milder, characterized by playful wit, associated with
Horace, so the Horatian satire.
And then, there is a Greek Menippean satire more often in prose. It's a sort of
intellectual satire, a satire about attitudes, philosophies and it's often associated with
polyphonic works (different voices of people represented different theories).
In English Literature
Satire started being written in the classical time, but of course in English literature
satire is a very important genre. It's especially associated with the late 17th early
Generally speaking, period of political turmoil favour satire, because there are
different parties, and they attack each other, often to satire. In poetry: Dryden, Pope,
Samuel Johnson are satirical poets of the late 17th-18th century. Satire is often
connected with the decline of the epic poem and the rise of the novel. For instance,
Pope wrote "The rape of the lock", called mock-heroic poem. It's a poem that pretends
to be heroic, but in fact it's about something frivolous [rape in this content means the
stealing of the lock, something really frivolous]. There is a time in history in which
epic poem about heroes, became obsolete and become an object of parody. It's a
connected with the decline of poetry and also somehow with the rise of the novel,
because the same period that produces great satirical poetry in England, also
produced the rise of the novel. Satire is a very important genre in the late 17th-18th
centuries English literature.
The flourish of the satire seems to be somehow related to the decline of the epic poem
with the rise of the novel. The novel is a new modern comparative genre.
Although there are works in the antiquity in the classical times that maybe related to
the novel form. The modern novel is something very new, a sort of upstart among the
literary genre. The first modern novel is Cervantes "Don Quixote"; it is a satirical-
parodical work, because it was meant as a parody and a criticism of chivalry romance.
The rise of the novel seems somehow connected with the act of writing satire, or
parody of some other genre.
One other important work in this time is Swift "Gulliver's Travel". This was meant as a
sort of satirical parody of Robinson Crusoe.
Fielding write "Shamela" and "Joseph Andrews", which are a sort of parodical satirical
re-writing of "Pamela" by Richardson. Sterne is a famous for his "Tristram Shandy" or
"The Sentimental Journey" which are sort of parodical works of sentimental fiction.
Jane Austen famously started her career with satirical periodical works "Northanger
Abbey", which was a parody of the gothic novel; "Sense and Sensibility" which was a
satirical parody of the sentimental lyrical.
Many of the great 18th century novelists, start their careers writing satire of parody of
One other important subgenre, connected with silver-fork fiction is the Roman-à-clef,
which is a novel which is not really a novel and a fiction that is not really a fiction. It is
a novel for which a key or multiple key, are provided allowing the reader to go and
identify real character under fictional names. In these novels normally, there are
fictional characters with fictional names, but in fact those recognized under these
characters, real people. Originally it was written by lot of women.
There is an element of the Roman-à-clef in quite a few silver-fork novels, because
they dealt with modern fashionable life and in one way or another they tended to be
inspired by minor celebrities, people that everybody knew, some famous dandies,
some notorious ladies (the readers were also interested because throw the fiction they
thought they might find something o gossip about). Especially Vivian Grey was a great
scandal, because of this, because it was very closely related to some really
experiences of the author in some distinguished circles.
There is also a disputed connection between satire and/or romanticism. On the one
hand it is true that what we normally think are romantic poetry, is not satirical, it's the
very opposite: it is self-reflected, introverted individual. The romantic poet gives us
the feeling that he's telling the truth about his feelings. This is what made Byron's
early poems very fascinating. On the other hand, satire is very different: it's more
public oriented, it has a public function in theory: he should make readers aware of
the crime vices of the modern life and provoke them to some moral or political
reaction. Wants to persuade the reader to do something basically. But many words of
satire were written in the Romantic Age and some by the very poet that we associate
with Romanticism. The Romantic Age was a very turbulent age and therefore it's
natural that many satirical works should be written at this time.
Tools of satire
How does satire work? Most satirical works need a satirical narrator or observer. A first
person who attacks the vices and the affectation of society or at least a witty narrative
voice that addresses the reader and establishes a sort of solidarity with the general
reader in order to persuade of the truth of what he's going to say.
The satiric observer is crucial to satire because he's the one who recognizes that there
is a problem (unmask hypocrisy). In "Don Juan", the narrator, the satirical eye is quite
important, inevitably. In "Vivian Grey" and also "The Young Duke" have a narrative
voice that is also a character that represent himself in ways reminiscent of Don Juan.
One other feature of satire, and this is where the relationship with the realistic novel
becomes problematic, is the use of characters. Because satirical characters are usually
closed to caricature: they are simplified in order to criticized someone, to make fun of
him, to show how hypocritical he/she is. The narrator has to simply these characters.
This is of course something very different than the novelistic character we encounter
unrealistic novels. If we considered that the novels develop in the course of the 18th-
19th century from satire to realism, we would tend to think that the character is one
of the point where the more complex, the more settle, the more "real" a character
seems, the less he is a satirical character, the less he can be labelled simply. The
satirical character is the representative of vice, dishonesty, while the realistic
character is someone who is good and bad. The more characters develop and become
complex, the least satirical they are. It's often the case in novel, where the main
characters are more developed, while the marginal characters are a bit reduced to
stereotype, like characters in the satire.
One other tool is the exaggeration. in order to show the reader how wrong this
attitude, this view of the world, this type of behaviour is, you often need to
exaggerate, to show the consequences of an attitude, to make it more extreme than it
normally is. So, the use of the hyperbole or parodic intensification. Incidentally, this is
one of the reason why in Victorian Age it becomes less fashionable as a style of
representation, because the Victorians were very serious; they though that
exaggeration was the contrary of being truthful, being honest, serious. Exaggeration
produces a distorted image of reality, the world exaggerated by this sort of style. And
this is one of the reason why, as a genre lost his importance in the course of the
century. Though element of satire can be treats in most novels of the 19th century.
For instance, one author that is very close to satire is Dickens. Many of his characters
are simplified and some of them are clearly target of satirical intention.
Irony is another tool of satire. One famous example is pamphlet by Jonathan Swift,
called "A modest proposal", a Juvenalian prose satire, a bitter one. An anonymous
voice, author suggests that the poverty of the Irish peasants can be alleviated by
them by selling their small children to rich people for food. Because the Irish produced
so many children. This is bitter; he shows us how is terrible the situation. Last, but
not least tool is parody.
Parody (OED): Etymology and Origin
Parody is crucial to most satirical works. Much of these fictions we are going to read is
based on parody.
"A literary composition modelled on and imitating another work, especially a
composition in which the characteristic style and themes of a particular author or
genre are satirized by being applied to inappropriate or unlikely subjects, or are
otherwise exaggerated for comic effect. In later use extended to similar imitations in
other artistic fields, as music, painting, film, etc."
The word "parody" it comes from Greek and it is to be found in the Poetics of
Aristotle. At the time of the ancient Greek the parody was a very specific genre: a
poem which seems an epic poem but with comic content. One famous battle is the
Batrachomyomachia, a battle between frogs and mice. A comic epic or parody of a
real epical situation. It is a bit like "The rape of the lock". The romans also used the
word parody, but in a wider sense, not just to indicate the type of poetry (very
limited), but to indicate quotations, repetitions, not even necessarily in humorous
Repetition is crucial to parody: when you write a parody, you repeat certain elements.
But repetition is also central to language in general, because we learn how to speak
by repeating. It is a crucial mechanism by which we learn languages. Repetition has
also got to do with the Intertextuality, the relationship among texts. Any text doesn't
exist in a vacuum, doesn't come into to being in a vacuum, but it's inevitably related
to other texts, of which it repeats knowingly or unconsciously bitten pieces. Text
consciously or not, allude to other texts; they quote bits of other texts, they repeat
clichés (phrases that are used by many, stereotypical formula). Parody by being a
type of repetition, has also to do with relationship among texts. What matters in
defining a parody is the attitude towards what you repeat. You can repeat something
because you believe in that or you can be neutral (just a quotation of something) or
you can be hostile, so parody, not just a repetition, but a relatively polemical allusive
imitation. It has an element of criticism. The hostility is revealed by a degree of
intensification or exaggeration You show that you don't agree, generally by intensify
some aspect, but underscoring some of the features.
Uses of parody
Can be very different. The most obvious is parody as critical mocking response to the
words of someone else. Sometimes parody is used for different reasons: to invoke the
authority of the precursor text to attack and satirized the modern contemporary word.
This is uses not so much to criticize the original text, but to underscore the pettiness
of the present. You can use your quote also for other reasons than criticized [in silver-
fork is the first type].
The politics of parody
There is a wide debate on this. Critics tent to have different attitudes. One famous
critic, Bakhtin, tend to considered parody as subversive and progressive. He values
parody greatly, because he said that parody underscore that language is not
monolithic, but it is always made up of a plurality of voices. No voice embodies the
truth, parody shows that all different voice, all different perspective on the world are
limited and partial. Each voice is partial because it is the carrier of localized interest.
So, a parodical text, full of different voices which are made fun of, invites us to
consider such voice as relative as partial, not absolute, not carrier of the truth.
Many critics have noticed that parody is often used by conservative authors in context
were the target of parody is something new, innovative, marginal. New ideas are often
make fun of or parodied by the representatives of the cultural status-quo, by the
traditional intellectual new voices. In the Romantic Age, the conservative critics were
fiercely anti-jacobine (fiercely critic of the supporters of the French revolution, of
change, etc.) and they often resulted to parody to show how stupid, dangerous they
were.In the Young Duke there are satirical-parodical bits on Utilitarianism and of
course the critics of the utilitarianism can be seen as progressive by some, but the
utilitarian philosophers were also those who were in favour of the abolition of slavery,
were in favour of the abolition of privilege... Remind: parody can be also just fun.
SLIDE 8_THE MARKETING OF THE NOVEL
We saw the development of the novel and the role that this special type of novel, the
silver-fork had in the development. We will focus mainly on the marketing of
literature, on the material conditions which produced certain developments and
innovation in the novel and that made it for a short while very remunerative to
produce silver-fork fictions.
The heyday of silver-fork fiction 1822-1842
The silver-fork novel isn't real a genre, but it can be defined as a subgenre. In the
course of the development, the novel went throw different stages and there were
The silver-fork it's one of the types of novel dates late 1820. Indeed, there are novels
before which looks very similar to silver-forks (late 18th century) and there is
proximity between silver-fork fiction and Jane Austen novels.
The pick of the success of the silver-fork was between 1822-1842. 95% of the fiction
associated with the silver-fork came out in these years.
The chart it shows the increase in the production of novels between 1700 and 1850.
It tells you how many new titles were published each year. At the beginning of the
century, every year, very few novels were published. This doesn't actually change,
until 1780 where there is a sort of big rise in the number of the novel. According to
Moretti this is linked to the fact that these were years of political debates: they are
the years between the American Revolution and the late 1790 the years of the French
Revolution, when lots of people felt the edge to write.
Also, there were intellectuals who started using the novel for intellectuals or political
purposes. The names who are normally recourse in this context were William Godwin
and Mary Wollstonecraft the parents of Mary Shelley; they were radicals, intellectuals,
very militant, and they also wrote novels, which had a political function.
Then there is a sort of lull, doesn't go on this trend of dramatic increase for a while.
This is generally explained because of the War with France. The very last year of the
18th century (1798-99) and then the early years of the century up to 1850, were
years of war, of political repression in England; you
couldn't criticise the government otherwise you would be considered a treater (in time
of war self-criticism was seen as something negative).
There are more specific reasons for this apparent sort of little crises of the novel at
the time. Then, after 1820-25 there is a big rise in the number of novels published. It
goes on and on till 1840. In a moment of multiplication of titles emerged the silver-
The copyright laws was the laws which recognised that the author or the publisher
(who buys the manuscript from the author) has the right to reproduce it for
a number of years. England was the first nation to provide itself with a copyright law.
This shows that literature, selling literature at the very beginning of the century, it
was a business. We know that in somehow literature was commercialised also in the
Elizabethan Era, but it wasn't such a big market, but by 1710 it had become a quite
large business to produce books.
According to this law, you had to register your work (when publisher published the
book) and from that moment you had the right for 14 years: you could reprinted or
sell it exclusively for 14 years (this could be renewed once). Traditionally the
publishers had thought that when they published the book they had their right to it
forever and therefore they were not very pleased with this new law. At the beginning
everybody registered their new works and published them, but when the 14, 28 years
started expiry, the publisher were not very pleased, because they invested money in
the purchase of the manuscript and then published them, and they wanted to retain
control of it.
In the early part of the century there was a sort of agitation a resistance by the
publisher and by the book seller (sometimes the same person): they opposed the law
(it was there, but it wasn't respected).
In 1774 the House of Lords confirmed Queen Anne's Act. This was applied to England,
but in Ireland and Scotland it was a bit different because nobody checked what was
going on: there wasn't a real law there. Happened that some Irish publishers/printers
could steal works under copyright; publisher made cheaper editions of these book
in Ireland, and then they smuggled them into England.
Another important date was 1801 the Act of Union (makes a Union of Ireland and
Britain) extended the validity of the copyright provisions to Ireland: it was no longer
possible to print cheaper edition in Ireland of copyrighted books.
In 1808 the Law was likely changed and 28 years became the default duration of the
copyright. When a publisher bought a manuscript from an author and published it, he
had the right to be the only one to re-published it for 28 years. It was in the interest
of the publisher to make the period longer.
In England, they were quite powerful, so in 1842 they managed to get a copyright
period even a longer period: life of author plus seven years; or 42 years from first
publication (whichever was the longer).
Two sectors of the book-market
At the beginning of the 19th century, the book market was dominated by two main
publishing centers: Edinburgh and London (even during the Victorian Age).
Traditionally Scotland was considered a very intellectual region that had very good
University, more than in the all England. The University of London started in the 1820
(at the time of the sivler-fork fiction).
The book-market was divided in two sections:
- the market for new books: all the books coming out in the 1820, new titles (novels),
which were under copyrights. It was a monopolistic market (no meaning that there
was only one publisher, but each one had the monopoly for some works). There was a
competition in getting good authors. Prices tended to be very high. The first editions
of novels in this period, were luxury editions (very beautifully bound big volume,
nicely printed, beautiful papers...) and of course very few copies were printed. The
idea, under the fact, it was that they were so expensive that very few people could
actually buy these books, but they were bought by the circulating or landing libraries
and people got them from the libraries on loan, paying a subscription.
These books were very expensive, and they tended to be also very bulky, because it
was the interest of the publisher to make them into a very substantial? Bulky things
and therefore they normally came in more than one volume. At this time there were
books published in two, three...volumes, with the silver-fork era, the format was more
clearly define, because the three volume format, the famous 3-decker, became
the typical format of the publisher. The idea of having a book in a multiples volumes,
was good for the libraries because you would have to subscribe only one volume of
the book. So each copy of the book could be read by two people at the time.
It was very convenient for the libraries and the publisher as well, because normally
the books were bought in bulks by the libraries. For important authors, the libraries
would book the books, would buy the books even before they were published.
In this situation there was a little interest in technological innovation. The publishers
of new novels weren't especially interested in experimenting cheaper format, because
the money they earned from this business, was quite substantial already.
- the market for old books: no-copyrighted works. It was the business of reprinted old
books from the Bible, Shakespeare, the early 18th century novelists (Defoe,
Fielding...): their copyright had expired so everyone could publish them. Therefore,
there it became a competitive market, because there could be three or four publishers
who decided to publish the all Shakespeare, to re-publish Robinson Crusoe... and
therefore there you would have cheaper editions, not so bulky or elegant, but books
that more individuals could buy.
Here there was an interest in technological innovation, the key word was
mechanization. It was the time of the industrial revolution, so there all sort of
attempt to mechanise the printing of books. If you need machines to do this sort of
job, you need to make many copies of the book, in order to make it worth. There were
more experiments in cheaper format and new technologies. One important thing
to remember is that at the time, still in the early 19th century, paper wasn't make of
wood pulp but made with rags: it was a very good paper, but more expensive.
Even the book-market is connected with other things in society:
- the Industrial the Revolution affected at the beginning especially the textile
industry, so the production of cotton cloth.
In theory the cost of paper made of rags was bound to become cheaper because
cotton cloth became cheaper (as a consequence of industrial mechanize production)
and therefore in the course of time there would be more rags available. But at the
time the system hadn't sort of fully started and the Napoleonic wars had an impact on
the market of rags, because the British publisher bought many rags from the
continent. When there were the wars they couldn't import these rags
(French, Italian...) that became unavailable and therefore paper in these years was
very expensive, until at least 1850.
This is interesting because is a part of the reason why poetry was so such a
central genre in the early 19th book-market. Because poems are generally much
shorter than novels. In that period paper was expensive, so publisher preferred to
print smaller books and therefore poetry collections were a more interesting product
to publish than bulky novels.
Poetry comes usually in slender volumes and is read a re-read, and can be read and
re-read many times with the increasing pleasure. The more you know about the poet,
the more you familiarised with his style — a sort of special relation with poetry that
allows and encourages you to read and re-read. Even for the buyer the purchase of a
small book of poetry it's a more satisfactory investment, because he can treasure
these books, keep them in his libraries and read and re-read them.
With novels, it was a bit different: more novels, now and then, was just read for fun,
for entertainment. When you know the story you don't want to re-read. The need of
have them on your shelves of the library is not that pressing. People preferred to
borrow them from libraries, read them and bring them back.
Quote from Byron to Murray.
“And if, as the opinion goes, verse hath a better sale than prose—Certes, I should have more than those,
They say that it's easier to sell verse than prose, and therefore I write more of these poems because
you want them and because it's a good thing to earn money out of poetry - ironical
At the beginning of the 19th century the main book buyers were…
At the beginning of the 19th century, the main book buyers (especially novels) were
the main libraries o private society instituted to supply their place.
The only people who actually buy books (novels, bulky-books...) are rich people, who
wanted the luxurious 3-decker edition on their shelves in the house as furniture. They
who buy book don't read them, and they who read them don't buy them: the paradox
was that people who could effort buying books are those who don't read them (this
was what said Robert Southey in his Letters from England, in the 1809).
Due to the end of the war with France, paper became a bit less expensive.
It is a period when cheaper editions, re-prints become more frequent. Scott was still
live. He first published his book in a very expensive 3-decker edition, but then, he
published with his publisher a collection of his works in a very cheaper edition.
It is also the time of the time of the boom of periodicals, which were a good way to
circulate poetry and to advertise books. There were also a publication of annuals,
which were published generally before Christmas, and they were given as present to
people. They collected the best bits, materials from different authors: it was a way in
which literature and poetry circulated and there were generally more individuals
buyers. Paradoxically this led to the decline of poetry, of the interest the publisher had
in the small volume of poems. When anthology became available, when literature
periodicals published reviews with ample selections of poems, people were
less interesting in buying the small volume of poems, the small lyrical ballads. They
were more interesting in buying an anthology.
After the death of Byron, the small volume of poetry became less fashionable: it
was superseded by the other forms of distribution.
Paper became less expensive, the sell of poetry booklets declined, the 3-decker novels
were still and would remain very expensive.
In 1821 the price for a 3-decker was still expensive: one and a half guinea/31 shillings
and 6 pence (standard price till 1896).
3 decker remained the main format and it remained extremely expensive. It was not
the only format for novel, but the main format for new novels: novels were published
in 3 expensive volumes, and only after 3-5...Years, cheaper edition would be sold.
Because the marketing of novels throw the circulating, landing libraries was so
successful and seemed to pleased most of the parties involved: it pleased the
publishers, the owner of the landing libraries and also the public.
Hall's Library at Margaret
“Circulating library” because they helped the circulation of book. They were private
businesses, firms. There were very many, one example as 1789 library was “Hall's
Library at Margaret”. Most of them were associated with tourist places (Margaret it
was on the sea). They were places where people met, socialised, bought other types
of goods (souvenirs, toys for children, small items of jewellery) sort of interesting
places to go, to spent their leisure time in town or on holiday.
At the time when to buy a new novel you had to pay one guinea and a half,
the subscription to a library like this could be two guineas a year and for that price,
you would be allowed to read something like 24 novels: it was much better to get
your novels from the library, read them and then get back, that buy the novels and
keep them in your house.
Of course paying 2 guineas a year wasn't a little amount of money: they were places
for wealthy people (not rich) indeed not everyone would be able to afford to pay this
amount of money.
New novels were printed in multi-volume editions; fee copies were printed, and they
were very expensive.
Most readers didn't buy novels, they didn't even want buy them, even if they had
money, but they borrow them from lending libraries.
There were about 1000 libraries around 1800 in England, which shows how popular
they were, even as when time.
One interesting thing was that some owners also became publishers. They were new
types of publishers: they knew what people wanted, they were very careful. The
owner of a circulating library had to be very aware of the taste of the public, how
many copies of these books he needed buy.
Traditionally publisher (especially famous) would necessarily taking to account: they
would be more interesting in the author or the quality of the book. The new publishers
were more interested in what people liked.
Out to these group of people, two publishers emerged:
- John Lane — made lots of money around 1800 with his publishing house called
“Minerva Press”, which specialised in Gothic novels;
- Henry Colburn — a bit later; he was the man who launched the silver-fork fiction.
The new publishers encouraged the authors to write more books of the same type.
Publishers tend to create a sort of literature written following a recipe, not creation or
innovation — careful.
The same happened to the silver-fork fiction, that it was dealing with aristocracy,
fashionable people in fashionable places.
SLIDE 9_SILVER-FORK FICTION
Henry Colburn: an enterprising publisher
Last week: some new types of publishers, who came from the world of
circulating/landing libraries, a head for a different experience of the public, the
readership. There were publishers (very modern) for a new world, that considered
books as sort of not really a mass production, but was a wider readership than
normally taking into account by traditional publishers.
Henry Colburn (1784?-1855) was one of them. He's the one who seems to have
created the vogue, the fashion of silver-fork novel, almost by himself and such as
inventor of the silver-fork novel, he contributed to the development of the British
novel in general and most significantly to the forms of the commercialization of
distribution of novels. Colburn and his novels, are those that produced a
standardization of the 3-decker novel.
At the time of Jane Austen, books were published in several volumes (some 2, some
3, it depends on the size of the books). Most of the silver-fork novels, were published
in 3 volumes format. They were so popular and often bought by circulating libraries,
so they became the standard format, for the new British novel till the end of the
It is known that, the 3-decker novel as a format, together with the circulating libraries
as an intermediary between the publisher and the public, became an object of debate
criticism in 1880s, so very late in the century. The 3-decker became a standard form
with Henry Colburn and his silver-fork novels.
About Colburn's birth: We don't know when he was born, so there is a mystery around
his character. We know a very little or nothing of his early years: we know that he
spoke French fluently (an evidence of the fact that he has lived in France as a child)
and that he had money (because he started as an assistant in a circulating library, but
soon he was able to publish his own books as a publisher and also to has his own
circulating library). These elements make us think that perhaps he was the illegitimate
son of a very important personality, perhaps a member of the royal family: a royal
One important element in his business is that he was the first to exploit fully these
three-different kind of business: the circulating library, the publishing of periodicals
(New Monthly Magazine; The Literary Gazette; The Court Journal…) and the traditional
publishing of books. He was the publisher of books, he also had a circulating library
that used his books to be circulating among its subscribers and he also published
several periodicals. At the time, when journals, magazine, periodicals, gazettes, were
very popular. What did he do? He used the periodicals to advertised his own books.
What sort of books did he published before the wave of silver-fork fiction? He
published continental books (several important French authors published their books
or the translation of the books with this publisher. For instance, Chateaubriand,
Madame de Stael).
He also made a name, since the 1810 as a publisher very interested in Byroniana, in
books connected with Byron. In 1815 he published the book of Lady Caroline Lamb (a
famous lover of Byron; she wrote a book, a sort of gothic novel, but dealing with
Byron and their love affair). It was rejected by other publisher because it was
embarrassing, but Colburn, just wanted to make money and therefore accepted and
published the book and made lots of money from it (although it was published
anonymously, everybody recognized and knew and the rumors circulating about the
author, and everybody wanted to read the book). Later on, after Byron's death,
Colburn published biographies of Byron and memoires of people who claimed had
known Byron and had spoken to him. There was a great curiosity about everyone
have something to say about the charismatic Byron.
The third element of this mix is the fashionable novels: he published many fashionable
novels in the '20s and '30s.
He had contacts with the upper-classes and he even managed to persuade many
upper-class authors to publish books with him. His main pride (as a publisher was
very admired by the aristocracy), was that his books were not just about the
aristocratic and fashionable world, but they were actually written by noble people, by
members of the aristocracy: there were more accuracy in the description of this
The attraction of these books which were authored really written by upper class,
author in some cases (as in the case of Lady Caroline Lamb), but sometimes were just
written by people who pretended to be upper-class and this will be the case of
Disraeli's Vivian Grey, attracted many readers, because people thought that by
reading these books they will know the secrets, the tastes, the way of life of this
exclusive circle of society. It was a bit of a paradox which is sort of synthetized in
"exclusivism for the masses" because it was something that it was supposed to be
very exclusive, but in fact in these books were written for the many not for the few.
For instance: there were aristocrats like Lady Charlotte Bury, Lord Norman by that are
people that actually wrote books and published them with Colburn. There were also
people who published anonymously as Henry Plumber Ward, Thomas Henry Lister.
There were also female professionals, that didn't really belong to the upper-classes,
but had some connections and so very good at pretending to know, as for instance
Chaterine Gore and Letitia Landon. There are also the ambitious young intellectuals, in
which we could find Benjamin Disraeli (rich and wealthy, but not at all a member of
the aristocracy) and Henry Bulwer Lytton.
Tempting Mother Colburn!
Colburn was criticised by the competitions, the other publishers. He was considered
too commercial (the published just rubbish, because the public just wanted and
accepting rubbish), he paid his authors very well, he was quite generous with the
authors. And he was also viewed by some as despicable, because he encouraged
Disraeli itself, published most of his books with Colburn. He also had the idea that
Colburn was not really a good publisher. When he wrote books from which he really
expected fame and glory, he didn't offer them to Colburn, because the publisher
wasn't so prestigious. On the other hand, when he had to learn money (he was
perpetually indebted), he wrote a book to get some money from Colburn. Quotation
from Young Disraeli, who wanted to go on the Grand Tour, but he had no money. First,
he asked his father and therefore he wrote these:
“I fear I must hack for it. A literary prostitute I have never yet been, tho‘ born in an
age of general prostitution, and tho‘ I have more than once been subject to
temptations which might have been the ruination of a less virtuous young woman. My
muse however is still a virgin, but the mystical flower, I fear, must soon be plucked.
Colburn I suppose will be the bawd. Tempting Mother Colburn!” (B. Disraeli, Lettera a
B. Austen, 8 December 1829).
I feel I had write a book hack: scribacchino, a person who wrote for money bawd:
procurer, la direttrice di un bordello. He will be the one who persuades me to write for
money, to prostitute myself. One of the characteristics of his business is that he was
very attentive to advertising. His books were very expensive (3-decker), because they
had to be advertised a lot. He would spend an average of 300 pounds to advertise a
book. His advertising was known as to be unscrupulous, so was considered bad.
"Prince of Puffers"
He was considered extremely goods in promoting books, so much so that he was
defined "Prince of Puffers". A puff, at the time was a very favorable review. Normally
books, in traditional periodicals the editors receive books and find an expert to write a
review. Of course they could be negative. On the contrary there are also review that
was very flattering (friends).
It was even rumored at the time that sometimes he asked the very authors of the
book to write his own review, in order to show the best bits of the novel (considered
very bad by serious publishers and cultural periodicals). One other thing he did, was
to published ads in the form of the "pseudo-news" in fashionable newspapers and
magazines (fictional news that would underscored again and again the importance of
Some of these books were meant as Romans-a-clef, for instance "Vivian Grey". It was
good for the publisher to make you believed that even the fancy-full stories had some
references to real people and events, was part of the gossip interest of the books. So,
books were just fictional but people assumed that had to do with real people
(Romans-a-clef is a novel in which you can identify that behind a fictional name there
are real people). He encouraged his readers to think that his novels were Roman-a-
clef and even published higher directly or indirectly the keys to the novels: the list of
fictional character and the list of the supposed real people who were meant to be
portrayed. It seemed like most of these books were about real, important people.
What about the interpretation of these large novels. The quotation is from the Bush,
The English Aristocracy. It explains the context, another way of looking at the period
we had been speaking of.
“The aristocratization of the bourgeoisie combined with the eventual
embourgeoisement of the aristocracy to redraw the dividing lines of society. In place
of the divide which traditionally separated the bourgeoisie and the aristocracy, it
established one that distinguished the gentility, a compound of aristocracy and
bourgeoisie, from the working people”.
Politically speaking, up to this period, the main antagonists on the political scenes
were the traditional rulers (aristocracy and the middle society). In the period we are
speaking of, we slowly see another type of political divisional society, where the
middle-classes and the aristocracy had a sort of embourgeoisement. The middle-class
tried to be more gentile and the aristocracy tries to be a bit more middle-class in its
way of life and the real political divide will be between these big gentile group
(aristocracy and bourgeois together) and the large working class. This new way of
seen, it's a consequence of the industrial Revolution.
The middle-class became more gentile, it means that they acknowledged that many of
the things connected to the aristocracy were ok, and when middle class people
became rich, they tended to be willing, to move to the countryside to buy a house like
"Lord so and so", and therefore there wasn't such a big gap between the two classes
The aristocracy became a bit more bourgeoisits lifestyle, a bit attemer? domesticated
lifestyle; a more pronounce sense of duty to worst? the nation for instance. The
frivolous young man, who doesn't do anything just to spend money, be nice for fiction,
but then of course he has to grow up and become a useful member of society. This is
the story of the Young Duke, for instance. The silver-forks novels work out this
problem, trying to find ways of representing this transition, which was actually going
An ambivalent audience
The audience for these books were an ambivalence one, which produced an
ambivalence fiction, that was critical but at the same time fascinated by the world of
the aristocracy. Of course, these books were read by members of the aristocracy, out
of curiosity, but the real big audience was the affluent rich, wealthy middle-classes,
those who aspired to rise in the hierarchic of society. They were morally hostile to the
aristocracy (which represented moral values that were completely opposite to that of
the good middle-class family, or businessman). These novels reflect in their outlook
this ambivalence, which is an ambivalence of audience. The audience had mixed
motives for these books. On the one hand fawning admirations, but on the other hand
they felt they had to criticize; therefore, reading satirical novels about these worlds,
was a good compromise. Satire allowed for criticism of immorality and all bad things
that were associated with the aristocracy. There was a sort of compromise formation
The class was ambivalent and produced of course, ambivalence fictions. The narrator
is fascinating by the aristocracy, writes about the lifestyle, the cloth they wear, the
food they eat, the silver-fork they used... so these works were celebrations of the
aristocracy. There was also the idea of the charm of exclusiveness. There is also an
ambivalence in taste, that it's very importance in novels. Taste only belong to very
few, the elites (is something that even the prince regent may be lack in?). These
books were handbooks for social climbers, people who wanted look like aristocrats -
they would read these books to learn about tailors, dishes...often clubs, patisseries,
shops are mentioned. On the other hand, these books in various degrees are satires
of the upper class. There are characters that are described as nasty, vicious. So much
so that, Bulwer Lytton for instance, these books paved the way to 1832 Reform Bill,
because they showed people how frivolous, lack in moral stamina, how despicable
rulers were, and force them to change the rules, to pass the 1832 Reform Bill (that
change the way in which parliamentary were elected). It's not surprising that these
fictions are often self-reflective: they have an element of self-parody or self-mockery
(especially clear in Disraeli's novels and other books - these young people were all
aware that they weren't writing great novels, but they were giving the public what it
wanted and therefore they were following a formula). Even those who wrote these
novels were aware that they trying to produce books according to a recipe that was
liked by their reader. Especially aspiring young intellectuals, like Disraeli and Bulwer
would also laugh at themselves. For example, when in Disraeli's letter, he compares
himself to a young lady about to lose her virginity, to sell her virtue to some good
client, willing to pay for it.
An elegiac form
There was a very unstable fictional sub-genre, oscillated between conflicting attitudes
to what the world of aristocracy it focuses on. This instability we connected to the
changing and evolving attitudes of its main target group, the rising middle-classes. We
can look at this genre as an elegiac form.
An "elegy": is a serious poem; more often in modern time, associated with the
meditation on death or on dead people (a friend or a collogues).
Why an "elegiac form"? Because the idea of the aristocracy that it's celebrated in
these novels is the regency idea of the aristocracy, and these novels started been
written, when the regency was actually over. There is a sense that that world is
passed forever, it's not going to come back. Society is evolving. So, it is a very recent
past, but there is a feeling that it is lost. This probably was intensified by the fact that
the great protagonists of the regency period by 1824 had all disappeared (Byron died
in 1824, Brumwell had already gone into exile between 1810/1820). There is a feeling
that that mythical world of the very rich and conspicuously consuming, immoral
aristocracy is going to be lost very soon. This is the elegiac element according to our
This vanishing world, is very evident in the Young Duke. Here there is an element of
fascination unashamed. The hero is educated gets shaped by his life and changing his
attitudes, he becomes a better human being and this is the Victorian element in the
story - he marries the girl he loves who had rejected him...); but on the other hand,
the excessive, the beauty of that world, is going to get lost. The element of
temporality that sense that everything is going to fade, it's also perhaps increased by
the fact that fashion plays such a big role in these novels. Ephemeral fashions and
ephemeral fictions Fashion is something that by definition changes very quickly. The
focus on fashion increases the sense that this world is changing very fast; every new
fashion marks the changing of society, taste... And also, this is connected to the fact
that these fictions that are set in the present or recent past, are also pervaded, full of
many topical references: they mention a certain club, a certain fashionable cook,
political issues...things that increase that feeling that the noble themselves will soon
be old to old old-fashioned. They are doomed to be quickly consumed and quickly
replaced by something else. It's also the reason why they are not Joyce's Ulysses,
they are sort of frivolous light novels, but they are difficult for us to read, because
there are so many topicals, references to things that were well-known then, but no so
well-known after 10-5 years.
According to our critic, this general feeling of vanishing things, fast changing,
fashion... it was induced and persuaded at least some members of the aristocracy to
write about their lives. It was for them a way putting things on to paper, writing them
down, it must have been something that appeared as a remedy to this feelings that
the things were changing so fast. Many of them maybe have been attractive by
money, other by notoriety, but it's seems to have been so wide spread, the desire to
write down their own life (not the individual, but the way they lives), that it suggests
the critic things it might be a reason for these willingness, this feeling that if I don't
write it down, it will get lost forever, and none will know the way we lived in early
Reception (: how was these fictions receive)
The fiction was generally very popular (if they published so many books of these sorts
in those years, this is a symptom that the genre was popular), but what people like is
often very different from what critics, the reviewers like. One thing that was generally
appreciated even by those who criticized and hated these books, is that they had the
appearance of being truly drawn from real life - authenticity. This was given precisely
+1 anno fa
I contenuti di questa pagina costituiscono rielaborazioni personali del Publisher Katendless di informazioni apprese con la frequenza delle lezioni di Letteratura inglese I e studio autonomo di eventuali libri di riferimento in preparazione dell'esame finale o della tesi. Non devono intendersi come materiale ufficiale dell'università Genova - Unige o del prof Villa Luisa.
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