For some time I have been working, in desultory fashion, on an annotated version of Don Juan. You can download the current version from that link. Would you kindly take a look and tell me whether I’m on the right track?
I am hardly the first person to have attempted this. Perhaps the most famous — and most accomplished — is the eminent science-journalist and science-fiction writer Isaac Asimov. He published a wonderful volume of an annotated Don Juan, illustrated by the fashionable NY illustrator Milton Glaser in 1972. I’m the delighted owner of a copy dedicated by Glaser to his own publisher.
Still, the greatest of the annotated texts of Don Juan, from a Byronist’s viewpoint, is that by the late, great Dr Peter Cochran. These are magnificent (not illustrated) texts of each Canto that Cochran carefully compiled from a variety of manuscript and published sources to re-create Byron’s own version of the poem — rather than the version “amended” by his contemporary and later editors at John Murray’s and elsewhere. Cochran’s text doesn’t shy away from Bryon’s eccentric punctuation or crudities (“mild-ities” today). It includes missing verses, and marginal annotations on the drafts and “fair copies” where relevant. Best of all, Cochran has added footnotes that draw on his own unparalleled Byron scholarship, his deep knowledge of Shakespeare and his broad research in the literature familiar to someone such as Byron who had absorbed an 18th century classical education.
I owe a great deal to Peter Cochran’s version of Don Juan. But this draft text is my own attempt to make something a little lighter than the Cochran version, a little less careful than Asimov (who tends to slide over the difficult or naughty) and still look good on the page.
The PDF document attached here contains only Cantos I — IV (without the Dedication — I half-excuse myself on the basis that I have already produced a free, illustrated, audio-book of the Dedication and Canto I). Cantos I & III are fully annotated. Canto IV has only a few notes at the start and Canto II… well, nothing really except the verse.
I’d be very grateful if you’d look this over and let me know your opinion of it — so far.