Northern Illinois University Press

Byron the Satirist

Frederick L. Beaty

From the beginning of his literary career, Byron possessed the essential attributes of the satirist—a strong sense of the comic and a refusal to tolerate wrongs. With the development of these inclinations, his work came to blend satire in a distinctively ironic way with the sentiment that was generally characteristic of Romantic poetry. While most of the prominent English writers were in revolt against classicism, Byron was determined that satire could remain a viable literary mode, serving even as a corrective to the excesses of Romanticism. Byron the Satirist examines the poet's adaptation of the English Augustan and Roman satiric traditions to his own individualistic use and shows how his satiric art progressed through a series of experiments in various techniques and poetic media. In particular, Beaty finds that Byron's fascination, while on the Continent, with the comic ottava rima tradition enabled him to emerge as a highly original satirist.

This book also explores the problems—artistic, social, and political—that Byron was obliged to resolve in the composition and publication of his satires, the immediate critical reception of them, and his responses to criticism. The satires are seen as the outgrowth of his emotionally charged reactions to his times and environment, expecially to what he regarded as social and artistic corruption. Byron claimed that his satiric poetry represented an accurate transliteration of life into art. Accordingly, this study places each satire in the context of its origin, bringing pertinent background information from the poet's life, letters, and conversations to bear upon its interpretation.

Finally, Byron the Satirist looks at the poetic satires not as nihilistic or despairing, however negative their thrusts may seem, but as positive efforts to reform society and literature. It is therefore an account of Byron's attempt to free man not only from political and social tyranny but also from the mental shackles that prevent him from perceiving the truth about the world and his own nature.

(1985) 244 pp.
ISBN: 978-0-87580-109-4
cloth $33.00

Table of Contents

1. The Development of Byron's Satiric Identity
2. Early Satiric Poems and English Bards and Scotch Reviewers
3. Satires of the London Years
4. Satire in a New Vein: Beppo
5. Challenge and Response in the Evolution of Don Juan
6. The Narrator as Satiric Device in Don Juan
7. Satiric Form in Don Juan
8. The Social Animal as the Butt of Satire in Don Juan
9. Four Late Satires
10. Byron's Satiric Achievement
Selected Bibliography

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ISBN: 978-0-87580-109-4
cloth $33.00