George Gordon Byron was a superb letter-writer: almost all his letters, whatever the subject or whoever the recipient, are enlivened by his wit, his irony, his honesty, and the sharpness of his observation of people. They provide a vivid self-portrait of the man who, of all his contemporaries, seems to express attitudes and feelings most in tune with the twentieth century. In addition, they offer a mirror of his own time. This first collected edition of all Byron’s known letters supersedes Prothero’s incomplete edition at the turn of the century. It includes a considerable number of hitherto unpublished letters and the complete text of many that were bowdlerized by former editors for a variety of reasons. Prothero’s edition included 1,198 letters. This edition has more than 3,000, over 80 percent of them transcribed entirely from the original manuscripts.
The first volume of Byron’s letters and journals covers his early years and includes his first pilgrimage to Greece and to the East, ending with his last letter from Constantinople on July 4, 1810, before his departure for Athens. Here is the direct record of his rapid development from the serious schoolboy to the facetious youth with ambivalent reactions to his perplexed mother, and the maturing man of extraordinary perceptions and sympathies and friendships. By the end of this volume he has already written English Bards and Scotch Reviewers (in part a spirited reaction to the reception of his earliest published work) and the first two Cantos of Childe Harold (published in 1812), which was to make him famous.