The Byron Journal

'Unshadowing the Rialto': Byron and the Patterns of Life

The Byron Journal (2011), 39, (1), 19–33.

Abstract

Focusing on Byron's letter to Thomas Moore of 1 June 1818, Byron's first-ever letter from the Palazzo Mocenigo, this essay celebrates the range, the linguistic bravura, the grasp of various literary traditions, the mastery of more than one kind of discourse, the fluency and linguistic fertility, the mixture of abuse and sharp criticism with an understanding and forgiving humanity, and the energy and seemingly unquenchable creative vitality to be found in Byron's letters. It also argues that Byron's letter to Moore is of particular interest because of what it says, and implies, about the shaping and pattern of human lives and the advice it contains, not least in the form of its own example, about the challenges of biographical writing. Specifically, it engages with Leigh Hunt, Sheridan (the subject of Moore's as yet unwritten biography) and a popular play by Arthur Murphy. The letter demonstrates that, even if not overtly, Byron is here concerned both with the critical assessment of literature (which is not only, or comfortably, a matter of aesthetics) and with the writing, and even the living, of life on the dangerous edge.

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Author details

Webb, Timothy