This is the poem whose publication in the spring of 1812 made Byron an overnight sensation. Our selections include the first parts of Cantos I, and shorter selections from Cantos III and IV. The BBC biopic gives only a brief glimpse of Byron’s “professional” life, when he meets other poets at his publisher’s, after the success of Childe Harold. Our next few readings will let us trace that story more closely
CHP was much illustrated in the 19th century; you’ll recognize the following image, meant to accompany stanza 11 of the first Canto:
The British library has an exhibition on the popularity of Byron illustrations, focusing on this text’s source, the 1833 Byron Gallery: check it out!
The figure of Child Harold represents the first example of an ongoing confusion between Byron “himself” and the protagonist(s) of Byron’s poetry. This compound figure would eventually be called the “Byronic Hero.” Even if we don’t know the name, we are all familiar with this figure, who still plays a large role in our culture. As an example, the first three Google hits on a search for that term brings up Wikipedia, an academic website, and TVTropes–a perfect example of how widespread this figure has become!
But we’re going back to the root. So let me start with a simple discussion question: what makes the protagonist of Byron’s poem/sequence so appealing? In your replies, cite evidence from the text!
(If you find him more appalling than appealing, you could argue for that position as well…)