On This Day in 1822 – Lord Byron’s The Vision Of Judgement and The Liberal

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The BARS ‘On This Day’ Blog series celebrates the 200th anniversary of literary and historical events of the Romantic period. Want to contribute a future post? Get in touch.

The BARS ‘On This Day’ series brings you Almudena Jimenez Virosta’s discussion of Lord Byron’s The Vision of Judgement which was first published on this day in the first edition of The Liberal.

Today marks the bicentenary of two events: the publication of Lord Byron’s The Vision of Judgement, and of The Liberal – the very first issue of the periodical in which the poem first appeared. Edited by Leigh Hunt and founded by Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley, the radical journal was short-lived from the beginning, especially given Shelley’s demise three months earlier in July 1822. However, in only four volumes, The Liberal housed significant pieces for Romantic Studies, such as Shelley’s translations from Faust, included in this issue, and William Hazlitt’s My First Acquaintance with Poets, in the third. According to Mary Shelley’s reporting to Edward Trelawny in May 1823, this issue was enjoyable:

'I had no opportunity to send you a second No. of the Liberal [...] the third number has come out, and we had a copy by post. It has little in it we expected, but it is an amusing number, and [Lord Byron] is better pleased with it than any other....' [1] 

Byron was unhappy with the first issue since it contained an unpolished version of his poem. He had previously sent the corrected manuscript to his friend Douglas Kinnaird who, unfortunately, had not said a word to John Hunt––the printer and brother of Leigh––nor to John Murray, who Byron initially thought to be the culprit [2]. The Vision of Judgement had been written in response to Robert Southey’s A Vision of Judgement (note how Byron changes the articles to ridicule Southey’s), and, as such, it needed to be flawless. However, it had been published without a preface.

As its title suggests, The Vision is a satire about the future of the deceased George III in Heaven that sought to counteract what, according to Byron, was nothing but Southey’s demonstration of ‘gross flattery’, ‘dull impudence, […] renegado intolerance and impious cant’ [3]. Although the two works share the plot and characters, they are often read as opposing ways of fictionalising history as they both address the life and afterlife of the same king according to their contrasting political views. By that time, Byron was no longer a prominent Whig figure, but Southey was as notable as ever in the Tory sphere. Southey had converted his political affiliations twenty years before, not having seen his reputation decay after the publication in 1817 by adversaries of his 1794 Wat Tyler, written amid his revolutionary years. Nonetheless, Byron considered his work still capable enough of stirring political discrepancies. Thus, in a letter written in February 1822, he asked Kinnaird to

"Try back the deep lane,' till we find a publisher for the 'Vision;' and if none such is to be found, print fifty copies at my expense, distribute them amongst my acquaintance, and you will soon see that the booksellers will publish them, even if we opposed them. That they are now afraid is natural, but I do not see that I ought to give way on that account. [...] I once heard of a preacher at Kentish Town against 'Cain.' The same outcry was raised against Priestley, Hume, Gibbon, Voltaire, and all the men who dared to put tithes to the question" [4]

However, Byron faced continuous refusal from several publishers. He was also delayed because he had halted his writing, which he started in the same spring as the publication of Southey’s poem, to compose Cain (1821). Six months had passed since the public first read the Laureate’s work and almost two years since the King’s passing. Would his response to Southey still have the same impact? The Liberal finally published it on October 15, 1822. Yet it came thanks to Kinnaird without a preface––much to Byron’s dismay. 

Parodying Southey, who had initially railed against the Byron-like poets of the so-called ‘Satanic school’, Byron criticised his rival’s endeavours for canonising a monarch who had attempted against liberty [5], but no one saw it. However, Byron’s title page declared its political allegiance ‘in its transparent pseudonym, full title, and a nasty epigraph’, as Wolfson points out [6]. Therefore, signing as ‘Quevedo Redivivus’ (Quevedo Reborn), Byron strategically aligned himself with the Golden Age Spanish satirist who had already exposed his court in his own Last Judgment [7], perfectly knowing what he was doing by provoking such an echo between the political situation of the two countries––for this was common practice since the outburst of attraction for all things Spanish prompted by the Peninsula War (1807-1814). Its full title, ‘The Vision of Judgment / SUGGESTED BY THE COMPOSITION SO ENTITLED BY THE AUTHOR OF ‘WAT TYLER’, said it all, as did its epigraph, which was drawn from Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice (1596-98):

A Daniel come to judgment! yea, a Daniel!

I thank thee, Jew, for teaching me that word.

Thus, taking up the voice of Shylock and Gratiano, Wolfson explains how Byron first caricatured Southey’s ‘self-inflation to visionary judge’, like “a Daniel”, to then herald ‘his deflation to despised abject in the court of Christian judgement he was so eager to enlist’ [8]. The second edition of The Liberal‘s first number was issued in January 1823, including the missing elements from the first. But that of 1822 had finely served its purpose. The content spoke for itself. No preface was needed, and no delay mattered.

Almudena Jiménez Virosta (@jimenezvirosta) is an MA student at the University of Geneva. She researches the cultural and political interrelations between England and Spain (1600-1850), with a special focus on education and communications in Spanish Golden Age and British Romanticism. 


[1] MS’s Letters, 1.338. The Letters of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley. Ed. Betty T. Bennett. 3 vols. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1980. Print.

[2] See Peter Cochran’s ‘Lord Byron The Vision of Judgement, edited by Peter Cochran’. Available on his website (accessed: October 2022): 


[3] CPW, vol. vi, 309–10. Lord Byron the Complete Poetical Works, ed. by J.J. McGann, Oxford, Clarendon, 1980. Print (qtd in Wolfson, 173).

[4] Byron’s Letters, 548. Life, Letters, and Journals of Lord Byron: Complete in One Volume, ed. by John Murray. London: John Murray, Albemarle Street, 1838. Print.

[5] Wolfson, 172-74. ‘The Vision of Judgment and the visions of ‘author’, in The Cambridge Companion to Byron. Ed. by Drummond Bone. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004. Print.

[6] Wolfson, 174.

[7] Wolfson, 174. | Francisco de Quevedo’s The Last Judgement was part of his Visions (1627) or Sueños, and the scene corresponds to the third night.  

[8] Wolfson, 174. | Both lines are drawn from from Act IV, Scene i.