In this series, we celebrate the 200th anniversary of literary and historical events of the Romantic period. Today, on the 19th of February 2020, we celebrate the bicentenary of Byron completing and Cantos III and IV of Don Juan and dispatching them to England. This is the first of a two-part OTD blog by Dr Emily Paterson-Morgan, Director of The Byron Society. The second will be released tomorrow.
On February 19th, two hundred years ago today, Byron sent his publisher John Murray ‘four packets containing Cantos third and fourth of D J‘ .
At this point, Don Juan was already infamous, widely denounced by reviewers and readers alike for its sexual and religious infidelity, its political effrontery, and general tone of satirical bravado. The British Critic dismisses Don Juan as a ‘narrative of degrading debauchery […] not only begotten but spawned in filth and darkness’. The Edinburgh Review condemns the ‘poisoned strains’ of a poet who ‘dethroned virtue and piety’ in his struggles to ‘exalt and endear scenes of conjugal infidelity’. The Quarterly Review, meanwhile, expressed fears for those ‘on whom its poison would operate without mitigation’ and kindle ‘ungovernable passion’, presumably resulting in a wave of orgiastic degeneracy spreading across …read more