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 It includes a considerable number of hitherto unpublished letters and the complete text of many that were bowdlerized by former editors for a variety of reasons.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 second volume of Byron’s letters embraces his second year in Greece, his revealing accounts to Hobhouse and others of his life in Athens, his visit to Veli Pasha, and his return by Malta to England. It covers the period of the loss of his mother and of several of his closest friends, of his first acquaintance with Moore and Rogers, his maiden speech in the House of Lords, the publication of Childe Harold, and the resulting fame that brought him into Whig society. It marks the beginning of his correspondence with Lady Melbourne, who became the confidante of his liaisons with Lady Caroline Lamb and Lady Oxford, and who forwarded his first (rejected) proposal to Annabella Milbanke.
Leslie A. Marchand, the author of critical studies and of the definitive biography of Byron, has brought a lifetime of study to the major task of editing these letters. He has done it with a restraint and objectivity that allows Byron to come through to us with unimpeded clarity.