George Gordon Noel Byron. 22 January 1788- 19 April 1824. Contents:. - Lord Byron’s biography - Literary works: -- Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage -- Don Juan. Lord Byron’s biography.
George Gordon Noel Byron
22 January 1788- 19 April 1824
- Lord Byron’s biography
- Literary works:
-- Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage
-- Don Juan
Byron had two last names (in addition to his title); but only one at any given time. He was born George Gordon Byron; at age ten, he inherited the family title, becoming George Gordon (Byron), Baron of Rochdale. When his mother-in-law died, her will required that he change his surname to Noel in order to inherit half her estate. He was thereafter George Gordon Noel, Lord Byron. He then signed himself "Noel Byron", and boasted of having the same initials as Napoleon Bonaparte.
Byron was born in London, the son of Captain John "Mad Jack" Byron and of John's second wife Lady Catherine Gordon. His paternal grandfather was Vice-Admiral John "Foulweather Jack" Byron, who had circumnavigated the globe, and was younger brother of William Byron, 5th Baron Byron, known as "the Wicked Lord". He is one of the descendents of King Edward III of England.
From Byron's birth he suffered from a malformation of the right foot, causing a slight lameness, which resulted in lifelong misery for him, aggravated by the knowledge that with proper care it might have been cured. He was christened George Gordon after his maternal grandfather, George Gordon, 12th Laird of Gight, a descendant of James I. This grandfather committed suicide in 1779. Byron's mother Catherine had to sell her land and title to pay her father's debts. John Byron may have married Catherine for her money and, after squandering it, deserted her. Byron's parents separated before his birth. Lady Catherine moved back to Scotland shortly afterwards, where she raised her son in Aberdeen until May 21, 1798, when the death of his great-uncle made him the sixth Baron Byron, inheriting Newstead Abbey.
He received his formal education at Aberdeen Grammar School. In 1801 he was sent to Harrow, where he remained until 1805, when he proceeded to Trinity College, Cambridge. There he met and shortly fell deeply in love with a fifteen year old choirboy by the name of John Edleston.
From 1809 to 1811, Byron went on the Grand Tour then customary for a young nobleman. The Napoleonic Wars forced him to avoid most of Europe, and he instead turned to the Orient, which had fascinated him from a young age anyway. Correspondence among his circle of Cambridge friends also makes clear that a key motive was the hope of homosexual experience. He travelled from England over Spain to Albania and spent a lot of time there and in Athens. While in Athens he had a torrid love affair with Nicolò Giraud, a boy of fifteen or sixteen who taught him Italian. For most of the trip, he had a travelling companion in his friend John Cam Hobhouse. On this tour, the first two cantos of his epic poem Childe Harold's Pilgrimage were written.
Some early verses which he had published in 1806 were suppressed. He followed those in 1807 with Hours of Idleness, which the Edinburgh Review, a Whig periodical, savagely attacked. In reply, Byron sent forth English Bards and Scotch Reviewers (1809), which created considerable stir and shortly went through five editions. While some authors resented being satirized in its first edition, over time in subsequent editions it became a mark of prestige to be the target of Byron's pen.
After his return from his travels, the first two cantos of Childe Harold's Pilgrimage were published in 1812, and were received with acclamation. In his own words, "I awoke one morning and found myself famous." He followed up his success with the poem's last two cantos, as well as four equally celebrated Oriental Tales, The Giaour, The Bride of Abydos, The Corsair, and Lara, which established the Byronichero (having conflicting emotions, bipolar tendencies, or moodiness, self-critical and introspective, one who struggles with integrity, having a distaste for social institutions and social norms ,being an exile, an outcast, or an outlaw, lacking respect for rank and privilege, having a troubled past, being cynical, demanding, and/or arrogant, often self-destructive, troubles with sexual identity ( can be heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, asexual, or of repressed sexuality), loner, often rejected from society). About the same time began his intimacy with his future biographer, Thomas Moore.
Byron eventually took his seat at the House of Lords in 1811, shortly after his return from the Levant, and made his first speech there on February 27, 1812. A strong advocate of social reform, he received particular praise as one of the few Parliamentary defenders of the Luddites. He also spoke in defence of the rights of Roman Catholics. These experiences inspired Byron to write political poems such as "Song for the Luddites" (1816) and "The Landlords' Interest" (1823). Examples of poems where he attacked his political opponents include "Wellington: The Best of the Cut-Throats" (1819) and "The Intellectual Eunuch Castlereagh" (1818).
Lord Byron cut a sexual swathe that still astonishes by its sheer number and multiplicity - he once bragged that he had sex with 250 women in Venice over the course of a single year. He was all-inclusive - boys, siblings, women of all classes. Ultimately he was to live abroad to escape the censure of British society, where men could be forgiven for sexual misbehaviour only up to a point, one which Byron far surpassed.
In an early scandal, Byron embarked in 1812 on a well-publicised affair with Lady Caroline Lamb. Byron eventually broke off the relationship, and Lamb never entirely recovered.
As a child, Byron had seen little of his half-sister Augusta Leigh; in adulthood, he formed a close relationship with her that has widely been interpreted as incestuous. Augusta had been separated from her husband since 1811 when she gave birth on April 15, 1814 to a daughter, Medora. The extent of Byron's joy over the birth has been construed as evidence that he was Medora's father, a theory reinforced by the many passionate poems he wrote to Augusta.
Eventually Byron began to court Caroline Lamb's cousin Anne Isabella Milbanke ("Annabella"), who refused his first proposal of marriage but later relented. They married at Seaham Hall, County Durham on January 2, 1815. The marriage proved unhappy. He treated her poorly and showed disappointment at the birth of a daughter (Augusta Ada), rather than a son. On January 16, 1816, Lady Byron left George, taking Ada with her. On April 21, Byron signed the Deed of Separation. Rumours of marital violence, adultery with actresses, incest with Augusta, and sodomy were circulated, assisted by a jealous Lady Caroline.
After this break-up of his domestic life, Byron again left England, as it turned out, forever. Byron passed through Belgium and up the Rhine; in the summer of 1816 Lord Byron and his personal physician, John William Polidori settled in Switzerland, at the Villa Diodati by Lake Geneva. There he became friends with the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, and Shelley's wife-to-be Mary Godwin. He was also joined by Mary's step-sister, Claire Clairmont, with whom he had had an affair in London. Byron initially refused to have anything to do with Claire, and would only agree to remain in her presence with the Shelleys, who eventually persuaded Byron to accept and provide for Allegra, the child she bore him in January 1817.
Byron wintered in Venice, but in 1817 he journeyed to Rome, whence returning to Venice he wrote the fourth canto of Childe Harold. About the same time he sold Newstead and published Manfred, Cain, and The Deformed Transformed. The first five cantos of Don Juan were written between 1818 and 1820, during which period he made the acquaintance of the Countess Guiccioli, whom soon separated from her husband. It was about this time that he received a visit from Moore, to whom he confided his autobiography, which Moore, in the exercise of the discretion left to him, burned in 1824. In 1821-22 he finished cantos 6-12 of Don Juan at Pisa, and in the same year he joined with Leigh Hunt and Percy Bysshe Shelley in starting a short-lived newspaper, The Liberal, in the first number of which appeared The Vision of Judgment. His last Italian home was Genoa, where he was still accompanied by the Countess, and where he lived until 1823, when he offered himself as an ally to the Greek insurgents. By 1823 Byron had grown bored with his life in Genoa and with his mistress, the Contessa Guiccioli. When the representatives of the movement for Greek independence from the Ottoman Empire contacted him to ask for his support, he accepted. On July 16, Byron left Genoa on the Hercules, arriving at Kefalonia in the Ionian Islands on August 4. He spent £4000 of his own money to refit the Greek fleet, then sailed for Messolonghi in western Greece, arriving on December 29 to join Prince Alexandros Mavrokordatos, leader of the Greek rebel forces.
Mavrokordatos and Byron planned to attack the Turkish-held fortress of Lepanto, at the mouth of the Gulf of Corinth. Byron employed a fire-master to prepare artillery and took part of the rebel army under his own command and pay, despite his lack of military experience, but before the expedition could sail, on February 15 1824, he fell ill, and the usual remedy of bleeding weakened him further. He made a partial recovery, but in early April he caught a violent cold which the bleeding -- insisted on by his doctors -- aggravated. The cold became a violent fever, and he died on April 19.
- Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage
Childe Harold's Pilgrimage is a lengthy narrative poem which describes the travels and reflections of a world-weary young man who, disillusioned with a life of pleasure and revelry, looks for distraction in foreign lands; in a wider sense, it is an expression of the melancholy and disillusionment felt by a generation weary of the wars of the post-Revolutionary and Napoleonic eras.
The poem is quite autobiographical, as Byron freely admitted, and is based upon his travels through the Mediterranean and Aegean Sea between 1809 and 1811. Despite the fact that Byron did not think the poem was all that good, feeling it revealed too much of himself, it was an instant sensation when published by John Murray, and made Byron famous in England practically overnight. Women, especially, swooned over the poem, fascinated by the character of Childe Harold, his foreboding, and his nameless vices. Lord Byron quickly became the darling of the influential female aristocrats of the day; they recognized bits of Childe Harold in him, and he felt compelled to live up to this reputation.
The poem introduced the concept of the Byronic hero. The Byronic hero is usually described as an outsider, and with a contradictory nature; sometimes cruel, sometimes kind, devoted but unfaithful, and never contented, but eternally seeking out new sensations.
It has four cantos written in Spenserian stanzas, which consist of eight iambic pentameter lines followed by a one alexandrine (a twelve syllable iambic line), and rhyme pattern ABABBCBCC.
Childe Harold became a vehicle for Byron's own beliefs and ideas; indeed in the preface to book three Byron acknowledges the fact that his hero is just an extension of himself. By masking himself behind a literary artifice, Byron was able to achieve what critic Jerome McGann depicts as "man's greatest tragedy is that he can conceive of a perfection which he cannot attain".
The term childe was a medieval title for a young man who was a candidate for knighthood.
- History and motif
Don Juan is a long narrative poem, based on the legend of Don Juan. It is a variation on the epic form. Unlike the more tortured early romantic works by Byron, exemplified by Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, Don Juan has a more humorous, satirical bent. Byron began the first canto of Don Juan in the autumn of 1818, and he was still at work on a seventeenth canto in the spring of 1823. The poems was issued in parts, and with long intervals of unequal duration between the parts. The interruptions in the composition and publication of Don Juan were due to the disapproval and discouragement of friends, and the very natural hesitation and procrastination of the publisher. Canto I. was written in September, 1818; Canto II. in December-January, 1818-1819. Both cantos were published on July 15, 1819. Cantos III., IV. were written in the winter of 1819-1820; Canto V., after an interval of nine months, in October-November, 1820, but the publication of Cantos III., IV., V. was delayed till August 8, 1821. The next interval was longer still, but it was the last. In June, 1822, Byron began to work at a sixth, and by the end of March, 1823, he had completed a sixteenth canto. But the publication of these later cantos, which had been declined by John Murray, and were finally entrusted to John Hunt, was spread over a period of several months. Cantos VI., VII., VIII., with a Preface, were published July 15; Cantos IX., X., XI, August 29; Cantos XII., XIII., XIV., December 17, 1823; and, finally, Cantos XV., XVI., March 26, 1824.
The poet discusses the societal attitudes of the time through the characters’ actions and attitudes. Also, reflecting the Romantic Era the poet’s narrative statements illustrate the society of the time as described by Graham Hough - “ …it is rather a picture of society – and Juan is there to show the way the natural man might live in.” Among these attitudes is a strong focus on wealth and beauty. There is a prevailing focus on external beauty illustrating the shallowness of humans. Throughout the poem, the author conveys this theme of human’s focus and fascination with beauty. Lord Byron illustrates the tendency to focus on beauty as he begins the introduction and description of new characters starting with their look. The human fascination with external beauty is demonstrated even further as the poet conveys the beauty through comparisons to nature. Lord Byron uses scenes or elements of nature to strengthen his description of one’s beauty such as in “Her brow was white and low, her cheek’s pure dye / Like twilight rosy still with the set sun” (Lord Byron, Canto II, 118, lines 937-938). The poet also displays the human greed and focus on materialistic things throughout the poem – as one problem the society has to face. The revelation of this aspect is evident in “He had an only daughter, call’d Haidee, The greatest heiress of the Eastern Isles;Besides, so very beautiful was she,Her dowry was nothing to her smiles;” (Lord Byron, Canto II, 128, lines 1016-1020)Reading the poem, the concept of wealth and power appears – reflecting on the society’s obsession with wealth and possibly how the Industrial Revolution let so many thrive while others sunk into poverty. Even though the poet describes the girl’s beauty in the quotation – he feels obliged to discuss her financial status as it was important in those days for matchmaking. The poet emphasizes wealth several times in the poem as he talks about the rich setting of the Sultan’s place; compares woman’s features to Precious materials such as pearls and amber; and describes Haidee’s dress decorated with jewels and made of expensive material. To note, the poet introducing the characters based on their exterior beauty and following by their wealth illustrates the human obsession with artificial things and greed.As a Romantic, Lord Byron talks extensively about love and human nature. The poem greatly exposes loveless marriages and the mirage of expectations in the society of marriage being the ultimate nest of eternal love. Even if there are feelings in the marriage – it is merely passion that burns out over time or turns into faking the feelings that are not there. The main character, Don Juan, experiences many affairs and infatuations that he believes to be love throughout the poem. The tendency of humans to mask their sexual desires is illustrated in the example of Catherine the Great and how often the other feelings are mistaken to be love.
In the poem, Don Juan thought he was madly in love with Donna Julia, but upon their separation he never recalled her as a true lover would, and easily became involved with Heidee. Spending so much time with her, he thought she was his love and that he could not exist without her, but once again – after their induced separation he became involved with another woman. Don Juan reflects the men and the women of the time who were making unrealistic promises of love to their lovers, but upon separation moved on to another person and engaged in other frivolities. Lord Byron himself is a direct example of this trend as he was, according to his biographies, in love with Augusta and as soon as they were separated he started admiring other women. The trend of cheating, disloyalty and unfaithfulness is portrayed in the poem. The most dominant theme of the poem is the exploration and revelation of human emotions and feelings, and how these flaws are the underlying causes for societal problems. This theme of the poem “accompanies the Romantic respect for emotions – which tends to equate virtue with reliance upon feelings…” . The poet emphasizes the significance of the feelings by capitalizing and personifying the feelings, such as “the traits of sleeping Sorrow…” (Lord Byron, Canto VI, 67, line 532) and links them to some natural phenomena such as the rage and typhoon. The feelings of rage and anger and how they affect one’s actions are described in the poem as the effects of the expression of these feelings results in violence and problems. The first example is the quotation that talks about the Sultana’s reaction towards Don Juan’s refusal of her love in “ Her rage was but a minute’s, and ‘twas well A moment’s more had slain her; but the whileIt lasted ‘twas a short glimpse to hell; Like the ocean warring against a rocky isle;And the deep passions flashing through her formHer wish was but to ‘kill, kill, kill’, like Lear’s,And then her thirst of blood was quench’d in tears.” (Lord Byron, Canto V, 135,lines 1072-1079) Illustrating human nature, she possesses short temper and refusal to abide her decision provokes this dangerous combination of feelings. Without analyzing or thinking, she is ready to kill Don Juan – thus reflecting real people who commit crimes when they are enraged by someone’s actions. .
The poet demonstrates the great human flaw of anger and revenge, and desire to inflict pain when something or someone opposes the person. The theme of unnecessary military slaughter or the acts of tyranny and injustice are expressed in “Upon a taken bastion where they layThousands of slaughtered men, a yet warm groupOf hundred women, who had found their wayTo this vain refuge, made the good heart throb.” (Lord Byron, Canto IX, 29, lines 230-234)He uses the fact of Napoleon’s war in 1812 which brought so much poverty and turmoil in Europe, and the battle of Ismail between the Turks and the Russians. The human flaw of waste and violence is exposed in the above quotation as many innocent civilian people were killed mercilessly by the soldiers for no apparent or justifiable reasons. The episode of the war also conveys the idea how humans manage to kill each other and find excuses for it to justify themselves – such as the ‘holy war’ related to religious clashes. The theme of deceit as a human flaw is evident in the poem, especially in this quotation:“ Kisses, sweet words, embraces, and all that,May look like what it is – neither here nor there,They are put on as easily as a hat,Or rather bonnet, which the fair sex wear,Trimmed either heads or hearts to decorate,Which form an ornament, but no more partOf heads, than their caresses of the heart” (Lord Byron, Canto VI, 14, 106-111)The poet establishes how easy it is for humans to pretend or deceive because of their selfish intentions. In the quotation, he describes how people put on an act as easily as dressing up in the morning to impress or fool someone. Although here he uses fake expressions of love, the deceit is present in more fragments of the poem. The human nature is revealed to be sneaky, conniving and dishonest – leading to all the abuses and problems in the society. Sincerity is almost absent in the poem as all the characters display one or more of the human flaws and commit deceiving acts. Self love and being self centered seem to be the underlying cause of most problems in the human society. The example of self-love is shown in:
“Self-love in man too beats all female art,They lie, we lie, all lie,And no one virtue yet, except Starvation,Could stop that worst of vices – Propagation” (Lord Byron, Canto VI, 19, lines 149-152).
Examining the poem, one can observe how the self-love and inconsideration towards others contributes to the combination of problems the society faces. A prominent example is Don Juan’s father, who cared only for himself and cheated on his wife to satisfy his own sexual needs. His actions taken out of selfishness led to a divorce, break up of his family and affecting the child. Juan himself was not concerned of consequences when he was involved with Julia, leading to his and her lives being ruined, a scandal and a shame for his family, and his deportation from the homeland. A more powerful example of this flaw was the royalty – such as the Sultan who didn’t care for his nation’s well being as much as for his own satisfaction. Catherine the Great was concerned with her own wealth, power and acquiring more lands. All the wars that resulted in havoc, death, chaos, despair and misery are the fruits of selfishness of the rulers who cared only for their own good.
Canto I (written in 1818)
In Sevilla, Juan's father Jóse is married to Juan's mother Inez, but has various affairs, causing her to plot against him and file for divorce. Conveniently he dies, leaving Juan the sole heir. His classical education is intended by his mother to shield him from salacious material (this effort is unsuccessful). Inez strikes up an affair with Don Alfonso, and in turn Alfonso's 23 y/o lovely wife eyes the 16 y/o Don Juan. Such things are more common in sun-drenched climes. On a summer day in June, an inadvertent touch of her hand on his leads on to stolen glances, sighs, Platonic love, kissing, etc., and finally she "consents" (for which Plato and Inez are to blame). One night Don Alfonso arrives to find Julia in bed with Antonia her maid, but he is suspicious and searches with his lackeys for her suspected male lover unsuccessfully. Julia makes an extended speech of outrage and indignation. After Alfonso leaves, a half-smothered and slender Don Juan emerges from the bed where he had hidden all along. But Don Alfonso returns, and eventually discovers Juan's shoes next to the bed, and then Juan, whereupon Juan flees. Alfonso files for divorce, and Julia is sent to a nunnery. Donna Inez decides that her son should travel and see the world, so makes plans to send him to Cadiz. He carries a tearful letter of goodbye from Julia upon his departure.
Canto II (written in 1818-9)
Juan embarks on a voyage from Cadiz on the ship Trinidada, accompanied by 3 servants and a tutor Pedrillo, still in love with Julia (and seasick), intending to travel for 4 years. But a storm sinks the ship. Juan and his fellow survivors cram into a longboat and eventually find themselves starving. They draw lots (using Julia's letter for paper) to see who will be eaten--sadly it is Pedrillo. Eventually, Juan as the sole survivor washes ashore on an island in the Cyclades in the Aegean. He is discovered by the lovely 17 y/o Haidée (like Nausicaa) and her c. 18 y/o maid, Zoe. He is tended by them in a cave by the beach. Juan and Haidée's love blossoms, though they cannot initially understand each other's spoken language. Her Greek father, Lambro, is a "fisherman" and pirate who makes his living plundering ships that shipwreck there--he takes the cargoes and sells the occupants into slavery, etc. Haidée has no mother. Her love for Juan is innocent, idyllic, needs no vows--it is like the first parents Adam and Eve. She was "Nature's bride... Passion's child... One made but to love..." "Their priest was Solitude, and they were wed."
Canto III (written in 1819)
The opening line is "Hail Muse! et cetera...", parodying classic epic conventions. The poets thoughts on marriage. Lambro her father has been away for a while, and was thought to have died. His house was in mourning for several weeks. But now however, he returns (like Odysseus to a house full of unwelcome suitors) to find that Haidée and Juan have moved into his house and are having a large celebration. He bides his time unrecognized, making discrete inquiries of others, and there are lengthy digressions on poetry, etc. The Isles of Greece poem is sung by their poet, celebrating the former glories of Greece (Byron was a philhellene).
Canto IV (written in 1819)
After the celebration is over, Haidée and Juan are asleep together, "a nymph and her beloved". She dreams and her dream evolves into real image of her father--he stands over them and confronts them. Lambro attacks and, with the aid of his pirate associates, defeats Juan despite Haidée's efforts to defend her lover. Juan is severely wounded, and placed in the hold of a slave ship as part of the cargo of slaves. Haidée despairs at the loss and refuses food, dying after 12 days of fasting, her unborn child dying within her. The isle is now deserted--the graves of Haidée and her father are all that are left to suggest former human habitation.
Juan finds himself a captive at sea, passing Ilion (Troy) and entering the Hellespont. The slave ship has a troupe of singers, dancers, and other entertainers aboard. Juan is paired up in chains with an Englishman, a man of the world named John Johnson. They are taken to the slave market in the capital, Istanbul, as the slave ship stands at anchor beneath the palace walls.
Canto V (written in 1820)
Juan in the slave market. He converses with the Englishman, telling of his lost love, whereas the more experienced John says he had to run away from his 3rd wife. A black eunuch from the seraglio, Baba, buys Juan and John, and takes the infidels to the palace. He takes them back to an inner chamber, where he insists that Don Juan dress as a woman, and threatens him with castration if he resists. Finally, Juan is brought into an imperial hall to meet the sultana, Gulbeyaz, a 26 y/o beauty who is the sultan's fourth, last, and favourite wife. Full of stubborn pride, he refuses to kiss her foot and finally compromises by kissing her hand. She had spotted Juan at the market, and had asked Baba to secretly purchase him for her, despite the risk of discovery by the sultan. She wants Juan to "love" her, and throws herself on his breast.
But he still has thoughts of Haidée and spurns her advances, saying "The prisoned eagle will not pair, nor I / Serve a sultana's sensual phantasy." She is taken aback, enraged, and thinks of having him beheaded, but breaks out in tears instead. Before they can progress further in their relationship, Baba rushes in to announce that the Sultan is coming: "The sun himself has sent me like a ray / To hint that he is coming up this way." The sultan arrives, preceded by a parade of damsels, eunuchs, etc. (he is 59 y/o and has 1500 concubines). Looking around, he takes note of the attractive Christian woman (Juan), expressing regret that a mere Christian should be so pretty (Juan is a giaour, or non-Muslim). Byron comments on the necessity to secure the chastity of the women in these unhappy climes--that "wedlock and a padlock mean the same.“
Canto VI (written in 1822)
The sultan retires with Gulbeyaz. Juan, still dressed as a woman, is taken to the overcrowded seraglio. He is asked to share a couch with the young and lovely 17 y/o Dudù, who calls him Juanna. She is a "kind of sleepy Venus ... very fit to murder sleep... Her talents were of the more silent class... pensive..." She gives Juanna a chaste kiss and undresses. The chamber of odalisques is asleep at 3 AM. Dudù suddenly screams, and awakens agitated, while Juanna still lies asleep and snoring. The women ask the cause of her scream, and she relates a suggestive dream of being in a wood like Dante, of dislodging a reluctant golden apple clinging tenaciously to its bough (which at last willingly falls), of almost biting into the forbidden fruit when a bee flies out from it and stings her to the heart. The matron of the seraglio decides to place Juanna with another odalisque, but Dudù begs to keep her in her own bed, hiding her face in Juanna's breast. The poet is at a loss to explain why she screamed.
In the morning, the sultana asks Baba to tell her how Don Juan passed the night. He tells of "her" stay in the seraglio, but carefully omits details about Dudù and her dream. But the sultana is suspicious nevertheless, becomes enraged, and instructs Baba to have Dudù and Juan killed in the usual manner (drowning). Baba pleads with her that killing Juan will not cure what ails her. The sultana summons Dudù and Juan. [We do not see how this scene plays out.]
Canto VII (written in 1822)
Juan and John Johnson have escaped with 2 women from the seraglio, and arrive during the siege of Ismail (historically 1790), a Turkish fort at the mouth of the Danube on the Black Sea. Field Marshall Suvaroff, an officer in the Russian army, is preparing for an all-out final assault against the besieged fortress. The battle rages. He has been told to "take Ismail at whatever price" by Prince Potemkin, the commander-in-chief of the Russian army. The Christian empress Queen Catherine II is the Russian head-of-state. John Johnson appears to Suvaroff (with whom he has previously served in battle at Widdin) and introduces his friend Juan--both are ready to join the fight against the "pagan" Turks. Suvaroff is unhappy with the women the 2 men brought, but they state that they are the wives of other men, and that the women aided their escape. Suvaroff consents for the women to stay.
Canto VIII (written in 1822)
Juan and John join fearlessly and bravely in the savage assault on Ismail. They scale the walls of the town and charge into battle. The conquest of Ismail causes the slaughter of 40,000 Turks, among them women (only a few of whom are ravished) and children. Juan nobly rescues a 10 y/o Muslim child Leila from two murderous Cossacks intent on killing her, and immediately resolves to adopt her as his own child. A noble Tartar khan valiantly fights to the death alongside his 5 sons, just as instructed by Mahomet, presumably to be rewarded with houris in heaven.
Juan is a hero and is sent to Petersburgh, Russia, accompanied by Leila, whom he makes a vow to protect.
Canto IX (written in 1822)
Dressed as a war hero in military uniform, Juan cuts a handsome figure in the court of Queen Catherine II, who lusts after him. She is c. 48 y/o [historically actually 61-2 y/o] and "just now in juicy vigour". He becomes one of her favourites and is flattered by her interest as well as promoted for it. "Love is vanity, / Selfish in its beginning as its end, / Except where 'tis a mere insanity." Juan still lovingly cares for Leila.
Canto X (written in 1822)
Juan enjoys the good life, is in demand at court with "damsels and dances, revels, [and] ready money", and gradually becomes very polished. But he also becomes a little dissipated "in this gay clime of bearskins black and furry". He writes his mother Donna Inez, who worries about his exposure to Greek worship, etc. Gradually, Juan becomes ill, still strong but delicate. His doctors say he needs to travel to get back to sunnier climes, etc. Catherine arranges for him to go to Britain on an undisclosed "mission". Juan loves Leila, who stubbornly remains a Muslim and refuses conversion to Christianity. They travel to London, passing through Poland, the Rhine river, Holland, etc. (Byron has now been away from England in exile for 7 years.) Leila marvels at Canterbury cathedral, but wonders how God could tolerate infidels (Christians) there.
Canto XI (written in 1822)
Juan kills a man in self-defence. He is presented to and settles into fashionable society in London. He is in demand by fair virgins and wedded dames. He is superficial and blasé, living "amongst live poets and blue ladies", pursuing business in the morning ("a laborious nothing that leads to lassitude"), lunching, lounging, and boxing in the afternoons, dining and dancing in the evening, etc. The poet cautions Juan not to become complacent: "But carpe diem, Juan, carpe, carpe! / Tomorrow sees another race as gay / And transient and devoured by the same harpy."
Canto XII (written in 1822)
The poet laments middle age, now 35 y/o. Juan is still idling in London, flirting, etc. Several persons compete to take up Leila's education, and he finally chooses Lady Pinchbeck, of whom Juan is a favourite. Juan, coming from a land of passions and is not impressed by the reserved London women at first, though they gradually grow on him.
Canto XIII (written in 1823)
The Lady Adeline Amundeville and her husband Lord Henry Amundeville host Juan and others. She is "the fair most fatal Juan ever met", the "queen bee, the glass of all that's fair, / Whose charms made all men speak and women dumb". Diplomatic relations often bring Juan ("the envoy of a secret Russian mission") and Lord Henry together, and he befriends Juan and makes him a frequent guest at their London mansion. The Amundevilles invite numerous distinguished guests for a party at their country estate. The banquet... English ennui. They all retire for the evening.
Canto XIV (written in 1823)
Juan acquits himself well on a fox hunt. He is attractive to the ladies, including the Duchess of Fitz-Fulke, who begins to flirt with him. Lady Adeline is jealous of the Duchess (who has had many amorous exploits), and resolves to protect the "inexperienced" Juan from her enticements. Juan and Adeline are both 27 y/o. Lady Adeline has a vacant heart and has a cold but proper marriage. She is not in love with Juan, but the poet will only later divulge whether they have an affair (apparently not).
Canto XV (written in 1823)
Lady Adeline is at risk for losing her honour over Juan. Juan has a seductive manner because he never seems anxious to seduce. He neither brooks nor claims superiority. Adeline advises Juan to get married, but he acknowledges the women he is attracted to tend to be already married. Adeline tries to deduce a suitable match for Juan, but intentionally omits mention of the 16 y/o and enticing Aurora Raby, a Catholic. Juan is attracted to her--she is purer than the rest, and reminds him of his lost Haidée. An elaborate dinner is described in detail. Juan is seated between Adeline and Aurora. Aurora has little to say initially, and thaws only a little during the dinner.
Canto XVI (written in 1823)
Juan is smitten with the beautiful Aurora, and thinks of her on retiring. At night, he walks into the hall, viewing the gallery of paintings. He hears footsteps, and sees a monk in cowl and beads. Is this a ghost, a phantasy? He does not see his face, though the monk passes and repasses several times.
The next morning, Adeline appears pale, the Duchess looks at Juan hard, and Aurora surveys him "with a kind of calm surprise". Adeline wonders if he is ill, and he tells of seeing the monk. Lord Henry relates the story of the "Black Friar", the "spirit of these walls" who used to be seen often but had not been seen of late. He had seen the Black Friar on his honeymoon. Adeline offers to sing the story of the ghost, accompanying it on her harp.
The song begins, "Beware! beware of the Black Friar! / Who sitteth by Norman stone, / For he mutters his prayer in the midnight air, / And his mass of the days that are gone. / When the Lord of the Hill, Amundeville, / Made Norman Church his prey, / And expelled the friars, one friar still / Would not be driven away." Aurora remains silent, but Lady Fitz-Fulke appears mischievous. She suggests that Adeline has sung this to laugh Juan out of his dismay. Juan's spirits are lifted. He visits with Lord Henry. A pregnant country girl and other petitioners present themselves to Lord Henry in his capacity as Justice of the Peace.
Another banquet, at which Juan is preoccupied. He wonders if Aurora had been the ghost--did he catch a smile on her cheek? He is vexed with uncertainty, while Aurora sits pale and only a little flushed. Adeline goes about her duties, while the Duchess of Fitz-Fulke is very much at ease.
They retire for the evening. Juan thinks about Aurora, who has reawakened feelings in him which had been lately lost. After going to bed, he hears the tiptoe of footsteps again. The doors opens, and again it is the sable Friar concealed in his solemn hood. He pursues the friar up against a wall, notes the "ghost" has sweet breath, a straggling curl, red lips and pearls, a glowing bust--in short, the "friar" is the voluptuous Duchess of Fitz-Fulke.
Canto XVII (incomplete fragment, written in 1823)
At breakfast the next morning, Don Juan appears wan and worn as if he had combated two ghosts, and the Duchess "Seemed pale and shivered, as if she had kept / A vigil or dreamt rather more than slept." The poet does not say whether vice or virtue had triumphed during the night.