The Byron Journal

Addressed to Impress: Byron’s Dandy Style

The Byron Journal (2018), 46, (1), 21–36.

Abstract

In 1819 Byron referred to Don Juan as ‘that there sort of writing’. This essay explores what ‘that there sort’ might refer to. While contemporaries such as Hazlitt argue that ‘it would be hard to persuade ourselves that the author […] is not a coxcomb’ whose ‘dandyism is […] a variety of genius’, this essay stresses not ‘the author’s […] dandyism’, but rather the dandyism of the poem itself. It argues that Don Juan stages a conversation between divergent aspects of the dandy character type: the controlled ascetic and the extravagant performer. This is ‘the dandy’s dandiest chatter’, but as Byron’s phrase suggests, this form of ‘chatter’ interrogates itself, as ‘dandy’ speaks to ‘dandiest’, and tests what such a comparative term could denote. Thus this essay aims to realign the critical lens by moving towards an understanding of how ‘dandy style’ can manifest itself in the texture of poetry, as much as in the weft of the dandy’s clothes.

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Author details

Lawton, Frank