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 It includes a considerable number of hitherto unpublished letters and the complete text of many that were bowdlerized by former editors for a variety of reasons.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.
Born for Opposition opens with Byron in Ravenna, in 1821. His passion for the Countess Guiccioli is subsiding into playful fondness, and he confesses to his sister Augusta that he is not “so furiously in love as at first.” Italy, meanwhile, is afire with the revolutionary activities of the Carbonari, which Byron sees as “the very poetry of politics.” His journal, written while the insurrection grew, is a remarkable record of his reading and reflections while awaiting the sounds of gunfire. In spite of the turmoil, Byron stuck fast to his work. By the end of this volume, in October 1821, he is established in Pisa, having written Sardanapalus, Cain, and The Vision of Judgement.