Lord George Gordon Byron (1788-1824)
“Hours of idleness” (1807)
“English bards & scotch reviewers” (1808)
“Child Harold’s pilgrimage” (Cantos 1-2) (1812)
“The bridge of Abydos” (1813)
“Corsair” “Lara” (1814)
“Child Harold’s pilgrimage” (Cantos 3-4) (1815)
“Don Juan” (1823)
“Heaven & Earth” (1821)
The perceptible limits of a literary period coincide so close with the political events & Romantic Movement. At the beginning of his career Byron was a romantic poet, in the end – realistic poet.
Most romantic poets were acutely aware of their environment & their best works came out on their desire to come to turn their environment. Historically the beginning of this period is the time of colonist rebellion in North America, their achievement of independence. The American Revolution was a stimulus for those who were oppressed by the existing order & the regulations imposed on people by society. The fall of Bastille was a stimulus & a symbol of progress & these achievements of freedom-loving forces were considered by romanticists as the fairest gift that showed that there was a way to get rid of opposition. But in England this process was very soon ruined by the reaction of the ruling classes to the aspiration of most of the population.
One should remember that social development in the past decades of the 18th century decisively insured the emergence of Britain as a new type of industrial town which reached maturity. The storm of the French revolution frightened the ruling class.
The beginning of the 18th century was the time when new ideas & reforms came to England. They were caused by several events. By that time capitalism reached maturity & was a solid adversary. The defeat of French revolution was taken by the reaction forces as a stimulus to distinguish new thoughts.
Byron’s life was very much influenced by those circumstances. The proud personality whom the 18th century gave the exaggerated opinions of powers of human minds inevitably clashed the reaction & being defeated & convinced of his inability to win became anguished & disappointed. His own grief was aggravated by his certain personal misfortunes that told on his life & work. His childhood was very unhappy. His father married not for love, but for money. He died when Byron was only 3 years old. His mother was left a widow with an income a little more than 100 ponds per year. She was passionately fond of her son but capricious & violent in temper. Byron loved her but could not respect. He was handsome in features but clubfoot. He was painfully sensitive of this defect. To 1798 he went to Harrow (a famous school) & there he made his first essays in verse. In 1805 he went to Cambridge & 2 years later he published his first collection of verses “Hours of Idleness”. None of those poems are of great merit, but they may be regarded as a promise of future excellence. An insulting notice of poems appeared in “Edinburg review”. Byron responded in a no less insulting article “English bands & Scotch reviewers”. Immediately after the publication Byron set up on his travels & went to the East – went to Lisbon – visited the battlefields of Spain – Malta – Greece – Constantinople. The experience Byron acquired gave him an opportunity to write his first two cantos of “Child Harold’s pilgrimage”. This book was entirely different from his publications. It showed that now there was a poet no one could compete with in talent & poetic imagination. The first two cantos gave birth to a new type of character – Byron’s character.
These two cantos describe a man who was dissatisfied with the world & the society, bored by the life of aristocracy, who sank in misanthropy. The book was written in a Spenserian stanza (consisting of 9 lines, 5-foot iambic lines, followed by the iambic line of 6 feet, the rhyming scheme is abab bcbcc).
The splendid descriptions contained in “Child Harold” opposed the identity between the hero & the poet. The first two cantos of “Child Harold” are followed by “Giqour”, “The bridge of Abydos”, “Corsair” “Lara”. Russian poets were influenced by the spirit of the poems.
Byron invented a new type of character – a very cynical, proud man, with defiance on his brow & misery in his heart, despising his fellow-creatures, implacable of revenge, yet capable of strong & deep affection in love. Child Harold of the first two cantos & Byron’s character are transpositions of one & the same character. He tries to find some atmosphere in catastrophes he is worn out by repentance. He is unable to carry the burden of existence he can’t give love to. He wants to do good, but at the same time he is misanthropic to an extreme, he is dissatisfied with himself, falls into pessimism. The character suffers a lot because of his insufficiency & extreme individualism. At the same time the poems are poetically so beautiful, that you can’t refrain from reading them though sometimes you disagree with Byron’s attitude to humanity.
After an unfortunate marriage Byron decided to leave England. This was his reaction to the attitude of the society that could not tame the poet. He decides to make his life miserable by slender – society turned fiercely against him & did everything to discredit him.
He went to Brussels – to Switzerland & there he wrote his famous drama “Manfred” (the best of all his dramas). There are lots of effective descriptions there. Manfred is a person who is stranger than any human being, closer to God than human beings & most unfortunate, because he does not know where to apply his extraordinary strength & godlike abilities.
She was like me in lineaments - her eyes -
Her hair - her features - all, to the very tone
Even of her voice, they said were like to mine;
But softened all, and tempered into beauty;
She had the same lone thoughts and wanderings,
The quest of hidden knowledge, and a mind
To comprehend the Universe: nor these
Alone, but with them gentler powers than mine,
Pity, and smiles, and tears - which I had not;
And tenderness - but that I had for her;
Humility - and that I never had.
Her faults were mine - her virtues were her own -
I loved her, and destroyed her!
With thy hand?
Not with my hand, but heart, which broke her heart;
It gazed on mine, and withered.”
This was the end of Byron’s being romanticist, which led him to realism.
“Don Juan” is the last great work of Byron (1818). The poem was begun when he left Italy for Greece. The poem records 6 major adventures of his hero. It opens with the description of his childhood & his early love affair with Donna Julia – a married friend of his mother. The love affair was discovered & this discovery led to Don Juan’s being sent away from the country. The first half on canto 2 contains the account of the shipwreck & Don Juan’s sufferings in an open boat. The beginning of the novel shows that Byron has changed his method, that the character is much different from the previous ones. Byron shows that he became the realistic writer & the sign that makes us be convinced of it is that we know a lot about the character’s background.
We know nothing about the past of Byron’s romantic characters. With Don Juan things become different – we know much about his childhood, we’re given much information about his parents & the society he grew up in.
From the first 2 cantos we can see that Byron pays much attention to the realistic details. Describing shipwreck & the character’s wanderings in an open boat, Byron shows us that one & the same thing may be treated s taken of passionate love & the instrument of cannibalism.
The third adventure involves Haidee – the daughter of a Greek pirate. Haidee finds Don Juan unconscious on the shore – she becomes his lover – her father’s unexpected return – Don Juan is seized & sent into slavery. In Constantinople Don Juan has courage to resist the advances of the sultan’s favorite wife. Byron describes his solitude from the 4th canto till the end of the 6th canto.
In “Don Juan” Byron reveals many topics^ love, fame, politics etc. he voices quite explicitly his ironic but finally compassionate sense of human comedy.
The intention of the novel is to represent like in “Canterbury tales”, “Don Quixote”, “Tom Jones” the human comedy, that changes with the time but in reality remains the same. In this respect Byron employs traveling, adventure to give us a model of different situations & these different parts are united by the main character, who serves like a pivot around which the whole world evolves. But Don Juan is a special type of character – he is the center of the plot, but excites practically no interest on his account. Our attention slips poet Don Juan. We are interested in the people he meets & the settings in which he meets them. In this we come realize that Byron gives us an opportunity to attach importance even to secondary characters.
Byron’s tone differs sharply when he deals with different characters, tries to represent their speech. This quality makes the novel sound dramatic. We have a lot of conversation. In some parts of the novel Byron himself comes to the proscenium & addresses to the public. But even in the time when his characters speak he tries to realize his dramatic method, he brings himself in. He is ever-present – he doesn’t pretend to remove himself from the stage. As a commentator he is rather witty. In “Don Juan” he sentimentalizes occasionally.
Normally his fundamental comparison shows itself through high-spirited mockery which is typical of him.
He may use some literary digressions, but soon returns to his habitual tone – irony & mockery – which becomes keen when in the last 6 cantos he is admitted to British polite society.
“ In the Great World, - which being interpreted
Meaneth the West or worst end of a city,
And about twice two thousand people bred
By no means to be very wise or witty,
But to sit up while others lie in bed,
And look down on the universe with pity, -
Juan, as an inveterate Patrician,
Was well received by persons of condition..”
He employs all sorts of devices:
- alliteration (West, worst, World)
- puns (west – worst)
He gives us a picture which is very vivid, but at the same time it’s open, unveiled satire.
“But Juan was a bachelor - of arts,
And parts, and hearts: he danced and sung, and had
An air as sentimental as Mozart's
Softest of melodies; and could be sad
Or cheerful, without any 'flaws or starts,'
Just at the proper time; and though a lad,
Had seen the world - which is a curious sight,
And very much unlike what people write.”
“Don Juan” was never completed. Within a year poet’s life was ended. Byron was an arrogant lover of liberty, fought in the revolutionary Italy. As many great poets Byron predicted his fate & death.
“”Don Juan” is … misanthropical to the bitterest savageness, tender to the most exquisite delicacy of sweet feelings” – Goethe.
“Neither “Child Harold” nor any of the most beautiful Byron’s earliest tales, contain more exquisite poetry, than is to be found scattered through the cantos of “Don Juan” amidst verses, which the author appears to have thrown off with an effort as spontaneous as that of a tree resigning its leaves to the wind.” – Walter Scott
“Sketches by Bog” (1833 – 1836)
“The Posthumous Papers of Pickwick club” (1837)
“Oliver Twist” “Nickolas Nickleby” (1838)
“The Old Curiosity shop” (1840 – 1841)
“Barnaby Rudge” (1840 – 1841)
“Martin Chuzzlewit” (1843 – 1844)
“Christmas Carol” (1844)
“Dombey & Son” (1848)
“David Copperfield” (1849)
“Bleak House” “Hard Times” (1851)
“Little Dorrit” (1855)
“A Tale of Two Cities” (1857)
“Great Expectations” (1860)
“Our Mutual Friend” (1864)
“The Mystery of Edwin Drood”
His father was a clerk at Portsmouth Dockyard. When Charles was 2 years old, they moved to London & when he was 9 the year of mystery began for him. He related this experience in “David Copperfield”, for his Mr. Micowber seems to be Dickens’s own father. His father after struggling in vain with money difficulties was carried away to prison telling the broken-hearted boy that the sun set upon him forever. The boy was sent to work at the blocking factory. He felt forlorn. But brighter days were coming. His father was released from prison & Charles soon after was sent to school to study for an attorney clerk. A bit later he became a reporter, first in the Law Courts, then in the gallery of House of Commons. His first essay in fiction was an accusing sketch “Mr. Minns & his cousin” (1833). Other sketches followed in some magazines. These sketches are collected in 2 volumes called “Sketches by boy”.
Dickens created very realistic people but they are never down to earth, they are concrete & individual at the same time being types, generalizations. Every type represents an attitude, a quality or a feeling. This quality becomes prominent against the background of innocence & sincerity.
Some critics say that Dickens’s world is full of caricatures but this is misunderstanding. It’s an advantage because you can project a type on any human character. If character is unaware that he is matched he is sure to show one of Dickens’s generalizations. Some critics say that Dickens’s novel is of episodic nature & it’s partially true, because when he developed his craft & his ability he gave us tightly plot all of a piece. His novels are vast improvisations.
At first sight the book represents separate episodes within the line, friends, their innocence & their ability to enjoy life, their desire to explore it. We can say that the background for these episodes is a solid basis for a great novel, great description of contemporary life in England.
The character of Sam Willer & his comments have an opportunity to unite the episodes into one whole.
After “Pickwick Papers” Dickens gradually heightened & elaborated his construction & went to work more deliberately with greater effort. His technique improved, the force of his natural genius weakened. His later stories are better than earlier but they are not better Dickens. His early stories are sometimes filled with melodrama. Nevertheless the fire of his genius burns more brightly in them.
“Little Dorrit” is a far better piece of work. Looking at it as a specimen of a writer’s craft we can say that it’s better 7 more mature than his “Martin Chuzzlewit”, which may seem a vast improvisation. But there are so many passages in it that only Dickens could have written. One period of Dickens’s life when craftsman is awake & alert the original inspiration has not weakened & this gave us “David Copperfield”.
Dickens’s biography presupposes his attitude to the events & characters he described. When we speak about “David Copperfield” we should remember his phrase: “I seem to descend some part of myself into than shadowy world.” Dickens was in all his books when he was writing them. He sat in his study speaking his characters’ speeches when he has written them.
In 1869 (the year before he died) Dickens wrote that Copperfield was still his favorite child. His contemporaries suppose “David Copperfield’ to be his disguised biography. It was his first novel written in the first person singular.
David is a novelist, who started his carrier as a political reporter. If you analyze the novel & its title you’ll see that the initials are the same but reversed. Now when it’s more known about Dickens’s life it’s quite clear that he changed the facts a great deal.
The day David is born his own eccentric aunt B. Trotwood enforces a way of disapproval, because the baby is not a girl. David was raised by his young mother, who became a widow before he was born. Then Mr. Murdstone begins to court Mrs. Copperfield. David comes back after his visit of Peggoty family – Mr. Murdstone & his mother become married – not long after Mr. Murdstone’s sister Tane moves in – hard times are coming (Murdstones intimidate David’s mother & terrorize David to obedience – David bites Mr. Murdstone’s hand – David is sent to a school where he feels miserable – there he makes 2 friends Tom, James – all the students whom David idealizes…etc.
The characters whom Dickens describes never change, never develop & we come to meet characters time & again & they are all the same & they’re credible. Sometimes they (as B. Trotwood) change their views, sometimes their fates are unpredictable (as the fate of Steerforce), but these are rare cases.
Many people assume that he is self-portrait of Dickens. Their personalities are similar but David is not Dickens. David is a portrait of a typical young gentleman of early Victorian age. To analyze the character one should analyze the time, the atmosphere he breathes. David has a good secondary education but no university degree. He holds some liberal beliefs. He is a supporter of establishment. He does not question the social inventions. When his friend Emily is judged to be ruined because of an affair, he does not believe it & treats Emily as he ever did. He is convinced that it’s important to work hard. He succeeds in his carrier, believes in God. He places a high value on a domestic harmony & thinks that woman’s place is at home. David is good but he has his drawbacks.
The noel has several plots & in some cases David is an observer. The hero of David’s type is a person who deserves the credit for his success & happiness. He does not feel himself as a hero. The protagonist is the hero who is in the focus of all the scenes in the book.
Some critics say that Dickens could not write a credible personage of a woman (they’re the same & there is a pattern according to which Dickens wrote his stories). Aunt Trotwood is quite believable. And from her appearance in 1st chapter she is one of the strangest Dickens’s characters. After David instinctively flees to her cottage in spite of all stories he heard about her. When we come to analyze her inner qualities we see her as a soft & kind person. Aunt Betsy may first seem as a modern feminist, protesting against male-dominating system, appraising only of girl-babies & teaching her girl-servants to give up men. But her servant girls are often married. She comes to love David far more than if he were born a girl. She is not going to substitute David’s mother: she does not have that affectionate nature. She seems awkward taking care of a little boy. But she becomes like a second father for David. She protects their home, she shields David physically against Murdstones, she arranges David’s schooling, she changes her will making David her heir.
Mr. & Mrs. Micawber
They are totally iresponsible & lovable. Mr. Micawber losses his job, his debts pile up, the family keeps growing, but they have a genuine respect for each other. In spite of their troubles they are cheerfully optimistic. They are very honest, affectionate, ready to help, descent. They are not caricatures as many people believe. They show psychological growth. They are not very much realistic, but still very much credible.
Eh is a hypocrite. He relies upon being humble is a panacea from all the illnesses. He understands that human nature is not perfect & when a person is humble people feel superior & they come to pay more attention to him when her deserves. He is cunning & clever in his own way, persistent in achieving his aim. Here Dickens gives us a person study of hypocrisy. Oriagh has wet plans you come to know.
The theme of makings of a writer:It’s the lessons the would-be writer warns. As many novels “D.C.” shows the characters grow up. The lessons David has are important for his profession. This concerns all the stages of his development. David plays a special accent on the diligence & discipline. He registers his life episodes as a writer should – drawing conclusions. He suffers a bit.
The theme of marriages: the book presents a spectrum of marriages. David learns that romantic live & domestic happiness do not come in the same package.
The Theme of discipline
The theme of parents & children: Practically no one in the book has a complete family – there are orphans, children with single parent…etc. Family life is a tragedy for children here. May be this very thing makes children understand the value of kindness. They are very responsive to good impulse.
Dickens is unsurpassable. He has a wide range of tones. He may be ironical, indignant, melodramatic, and sentimental. Dickens supplies the nostalgic attitude. He is not very much sentimental, but he is soft.
Point of view
It’s dominated by the main character, but it’s not whole of it. When we speak about point of view, we should speak about Dickens’s attitude to writing drama. He often simply lets the dramatic, but as if it were on the stage. Then we come to Dickens as an actor. We come to understand that by the time he started “D.C.” he became aware of the fact that any writer should enact his book.
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