Melton prior Institut


Linton- Life in the Collections


37) The Poems and Dramas of Lord Byron. (The Illustrated Byron)

London 1864 / New York York 1879

With a total of twenty illustrations, this late New York edition of 1879 includes only a small number of the more than two hundred engravings of the original version. Besides John Gilbert, Birket Foster, Henry Dalziel, Kenny Meadows and Hablot K. Browne, Linton is also mentioned as one of the authors of the unsigned illustrations. The edition itself is superior, complete with all original notes and can meet scholarly demands.

Although his republicanism had been an outspoken one in his parliamentary and revolutionary activities as well as in his writings, George Gordon Byron’s reputation among the British radicals had been low, quite in contrast to those of his friend and part-time collaborator Shelley. It was Byron’s capricious aristocratic appeal and his scandalous promiscuity that had by far outshined his political commitment. Even Walter Savage Landor who had resided in Italy at the same time sought to avoid him. Linton never refers to him, although he had been one of the first prominent foreign supporters of the Risorgimento. Like the young Mazzini , Byron was a member of the Carbonari, the legendary secret revolutionary society. Mazzini’s ideal of political art as the unification of theory and action had been prefigured by the “dangerous” Baron’s poetical and material campaigns for Italian and Greece independence in a most significant and popular way. It is not an exaggeration to speak of Mazzini’s concept of political culture in terms of a Byronic heritage. And in a wider scope it may be appropriate to detect in modern art’s appetite for revolutionary activity the traces of the sexually connoted Byron cult, which had establised high society’s yearning for radical chic already in the early 19th century. Byron’s acceptance in highbrow culture tabooed him in Chartist circles, whereas the upper class’ disdainful neglect of Shelley’s political ambitions had caused the opposite.

“The day will come when Democracy will remember all that it owes to Byron. England too, will, I hope, one day remember the mission, which Byron fulfilled on the Continent; the European role given by him to English literature, and the appreciation and sympathy for England, which he awaked amongst us. (...) It is since Byron that we Continentalists have learned to study Shakespeare and other English writers. From him dates the sympathy of all the true-hearted amongst us for this land of liberty, whose true vocation he so worthily represented among the oppressed.” (Giuseppe Mazzini, 1839)