Here’s a recording — about 2-years old — of Canto IX of Don Juan.
The recording (MP3) is in three parts. It’s best to read along with the text of the poem if you can because the verse is quite complex. Also please use headphones. You’ll find the quality much better.
[There is 5–10 seconds of silence at the head of each recording]
- Verses 1–21
- An attack on the Duke of Wellington for being a Tory and a leech; too vain to know the true impact his victories had on European freedom
- An apostrophe (“Death laughs..”) to death —- the subject is never far from the surface of Don Juan
- A meandering philosophical rumination on “being” that is short and witty enough to hold its place in the poem
- An abrupt transition to…
2. Verses 21–42
- A brief glimpse of Juan en-route to St Petersburg whose distant prospect leads to…
- An aside on autocracy, demagoguery and the abuse of power that ends when Byron seems to remember himself and returns briefly to…
- Juan on the snowy road with Leila. Shortly afterwards, in the midst of a rhetorical figure about Fame, Byron pretends to have lost the thread of his argument and bequeathes it to posterity… which results in…
- A speculation about the future and how the Georgian era (and George IV) will appear when reduced to being the subject of a future archeology.
- Then, once more, Byron pulls himself up and determines to restart the narrative. He cuts straightway to the court of the Empress Catherine where Juan is to present general Suvorov’s dispatches from the successful siege of Ismail.
3. Verses 43–85
- Juan’s appearance at Court
- Catherine’s court, courtiers, her appearance, bloodiness and promiscuity
- Juan’s presentation to the Queen and her infatuation with him
- A series of asides on lust and power and an apostrophe, to the vagina
- Juan’s flattered but ‘gentlemanly’ acquiescence in an ‘assignment’ — in Catherine’s boudoir — likely to make him wealthy and powerful at Court
- A closing scene in which Juan is taken in hand by a woman who “checks-out” the Queen’s prospective lovers.
I hope you enjoy the reading. Comments are welcome.
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.
A portrait of a gondolier, but not Tita
Battista Falcieri was, at first, Byron’s gondolier when he moved to the Mocenigo palace on the Grand Canal in Venice in 1818. He steered Byron through months of voluptuous adventures in the Carnival. He swam with Byron in the Grand Canal: even dined with his master in the Grand Canal. Then, in 1820 his craft hosted Byron’s earliest liasons with his last love, the Contessa Teresa Guiccioli.
Tita — a swarthy, powerful man with a wonderful dark beard and a happy disposition — stayed with Byron, faithful, passionate, protective as a ‘courier’ and bodyguard for the next six years, enduring prison and exile for his patron, until the last days in Missolonghi. He even accompanied Byron’s body, embalmed in a butt of spirits, back to London, sleeping alongside in the hold of the ship.
All but destitute in a foreign land after the funeral, the resourceful Tita made his way somehow to Malta where he was ‘discovered’ by a youthful Benjamin Disraeli on his Grand Tour… It was the beginning of another remarkable relationship of service to a luminary of literature (and a panjandrum of Victorian politics).
Claudia Oliver, a descendant of Tita’s English family — he married in London and worked for many years in the India Office — has gathered the threads of this admirable man’s life from archival records in Europe and North America, including long-forgotten correspondence of the great and powerful families for whom he worked and the recollections of Byron’s circle and Disraeli’s.
Buy it and enjoy.