Annotated Canto III of Don Juan

Here’s a down­load for Byron fans. An illus­trat­ed, anno­tat­ed Can­to III of Don Juan.

This project went into the freez­er for a cou­ple of years after the pub­li­ca­tion of the audio-book of Can­to One. Alas, there were only a few sales. The iBook has been free for down­load from the iBook Store for the past cou­ple of years and, still, there are only a very small num­ber of down­loads.

The Lib­rivox record­ings I made of sev­er­al Can­tos of Don Juan (here, here, and here) have been down­loaded tens of thou­sands of times. But there seems to be almost zero demand for a read-aloud book of the same mate­r­i­al, or I have failed to con­nect with the audi­ence; or both.

I have, how­ev­er, con­tin­ued the project in oth­er ways from time to time. I’ve record­ed the audio for Can­tos II and III that have not been post­ed to Lib­rivox (I don’t like their insis­tence on ‘brand­ing’ my work for them­selves). Those record­ings may appear here in due course: or I may wait until I have some more Can­tos ready and release them as a group.

I have also con­tin­ued to work on an approach to anno­ta­tion whose motive is to help 21st cen­tu­ry read­ers “get” some of the ref­er­ences — lit­er­ary, auto­bi­o­graph­i­cal — that made the satire so amus­ing for sophis­ti­cat­ed 19th cen­tu­ry read­ers. Don Juan is not a lit­er­ary puz­zle like, for exam­ple, Joyce’s Ulysses. But it is a much denser com­po­si­tion than Byron’s appar­ent­ly friv­o­lous tone and loose struc­ture make it appear, on the sur­face.

Here is the anno­tat­ed ver­sion of Can­to III. I hope you like it. Please con­tact me (there’s an email link in the PDF file) and let me know what you think.

Don-Juan Can­to III Anno­tat­ed

By the way: the image is a half-imag­i­nary por­trait of one of Byron’s would-be (de fac­to? We’ll nev­er know!) lovers: the sat­ur­nine Ali Pasha of Tepe­lenë, a brig­and, sadist, ped­erast and Ottoman tyrant of Alba­nia and West­ern Greece. For more about his con­nec­tion to Bry­on, and role in Don Juan, please read the Anno­tat­ed Can­to III.

Byron and Shelley as Vampires?

Implau­si­ble? For Regency rev­o­lu­tion­ary heroes, who knows? The image of the Vam­pire loom­ing over the inert body of his/her vic­tim in an inti­mate exchange of body flu­ids is a clas­sic kind of Roman­tic fan­ta­sy.

I’ve just fin­ished read­ing, Tim Pow­ers’ nov­el “The Stress of Her Regard,” (Ama­zon) first pub­lished in 1989, which clev­er­ly weaves many inci­dents of the years Byron and Shel­ley — and their cir­cle of girl­friends and hang­ers-on — spent togeth­er in Switzer­land and Italy into a nar­ra­tive that, if can’t con­vinces us of their Vam­pirism, at least con­vinces us to “sus­pend dis­be­lief”. What more can we ask of fic­tion?

In brief, Byron is por­trayed as the vic­tim of an ancient vam­pirism; as is Italy under the Aus­tri­an yoke. The pre-Adamite race of the Nepehlim have been res­ur­rect­ed cen­turies ear­li­er by a mys­ti­cal surgery on an Aus­tri­an Duke who, pre­served by his vam­prisim, com­mands the inva­sion of Italy and the occu­pa­tion of Venice. The ethe­re­al Per­cy Bysse Shel­ley, too, by an acci­dent of birth, is a half-breed of the Nephe­lim and, although he con­trols his nature, his mania — essen­tial to his poet­ry — seeped into his real­tion­ship with Mary (God­win) Shel­ley and has inspired, too, her writ­ing (Franken­stein).

Byron, it turns out, was infect­ed (“pol­lut­ed”) by Lord Grey (Hen­ry Edward Yelver­ton); a vam­pire who leased New­stead Abbey from him and who, accord­ing to Byron’s biog­ra­phers, “made advances” (Byron refused to dis­cuss the inci­dent) to his hand­some teenaged land­lord dur­ing a vis­it the lat­ter made to his ances­tral home in 1803.

Pow­ers’ clever imag­in­ing and rework­ing of the out­ré mys­ter­ies and cer­e­monies of the Nephe­lim and their ‘nef­fer’ human lovers; the rev­o­lu­tion­ary his­to­ry of Italy; the secret soci­ety of the Car­bonari (in which Byron real­ly did become involved, at least periph­er­al­ly); the drama­tis per­son­ae of Byron’s life, espe­cial­ly the ridicu­lous Dr Poli­dori but also his dra­mat­ic Venet­ian mis­tress Maria Cog­ni and his entourage of ser­vants, is mas­ter­ful. He bor­rows plau­si­bly from Shelley’s poet­ry in the epigraphs to each chap­ter to sub­stan­ti­ate the poet’s con­flict with between his human­i­ty and his ‘oth­er­ness’ (as a half-caste of the race of Nephe­lim) and even the doc­u­ment­ed deaths of Shelley’s and Byron’s chil­dren and the tragedy of Shelley’s drown­ing at the height of his poet­ic career become mile­stones in a smooth­ly per­vert­ed his­to­ry. Some­how, François Vil­lon, as the un-dead, estranged spouse of a Vam­pire “bride” — the Nephe­lim seem to be sex­u­al­ly ambidex­trous when not fly­ing rep­tiles — also makes it into the cast of Pow­ers’ book.

The plot? It revolves around two pure­ly imag­i­nary char­ac­ters; an eng­lish obste­tri­cian named Craw­ford and Aik­man (among oth­er names) who has the bad-luck acci­den­tal­ly to ‘betroth’ a vam­pire, and; his autis­tic, self-harm­ing sis­ter-in-law who spends the first part of the nov­el, and most of the sec­ond half, try­ing to kill him but who, final­ly, becomes his cham­pi­on and his wife. It’s com­pli­cat­ed but Pow­ers han­dles the implau­si­ble bits, most­ly, with aplomb.

I loved it. Close­ly researched and delight­ful­ly faith­ful to Byron’s his­to­ry and char­ac­ter. The only time I was jolt­ed out of the illu­sion was by this pas­sage:

Craw­fords eyes had adjust­ed to the dim­ness of the room enough for him to see that the sheets were scrib­bled with six-line stan­zas. It was prob­a­bly more of Don Juan, the appar­ent­ly end­less poem Byron had start­ed writ­ing in Venice in 1818”

Huh? Six lines! Don Juan is, of course, in otta­va rima! Eight lines to every stan­za! I was aston­ished that Pow­ers — whose research seems oth­er­wise impec­ca­ble — made this mis­take and that his edi­tors (if they still had such things in 1989) did not pick it up.

Live on the iBooks store

The illus­trat­ed audio e-book of Can­to One of Don Juan is now avail­able on 32 nation­al iBooks stores.

Two hours of audio, more than twen­ty full-page illus­tra­tions and the text of both the Ded­i­ca­tion and Can­to One of Byron’s hilar­i­ous bed­room farce.

Get your copy now (or down­load a free sam­ple) here

Don Juan, Canto One

Selec­tions from the the illustrations,verse and audio of a new e-book ver­sion of Byrons’ com­ic mas­ter­piece, Don Juan”: avail­able in the Apple iBooks store from Sep­tem­ber 2012, for the iPad and iPhone.

You can down­load a sam­ple of the book right now using the but­ton on the right of the page.

The e-book con­tains the full text of Can­to One of Don Juan, more than 20 high-res­o­lu­tion, full-page illus­tra­tions and almost two hours of pro­fes­sion­al audio nar­ra­tion. It uses “read along” tech­nol­o­gy to syn­chro­nise the text and the audio of the poem (unlike this web-extract).

Don Juan is an hilar­i­ous, risky, mod­ern poem that uses the Don Juan myth to explore the tan­gled, intense life and forth­right opin­ions of one of literature’s great­est but also most flawed char­ac­ters: the author, Gor­don, Lord Byron.

Image and audio extract © Peter Gal­lagher, 2012


1 & 2

Bob Southey! You’re a poet, poet lau­re­ate,
And rep­re­sen­ta­tive of all the race.
Although ’tis true that you turned out a Tory at
Last, yours has late­ly been a com­mon case.
And now my epic rene­gade, what are ye at
With all the lak­ers, in and out of place?
A nest of tune­ful per­sons, to my eye
Like ‘four and twen­ty black­birds in a pye,

Which pye being opened they began to sing’
(This old song and new sim­i­le holds good),
‘A dain­ty dish to set before the King’
Or Regent, who admires such kind of food.
And Coleridge too has late­ly tak­en wing,
But like a hawk encum­bered with his hood,
Explain­ing meta­physics to the nation.
I wish he would explain his expla­na­tion.

Image and audio extract © Peter Gal­lagher, 2012

They lived respectably as man and wife


Don Jóse and the Don­na Inez led
For some time an unhap­py sort of life,
Wish­ing each oth­er, not divorced, but dead.
They lived respectably as man and wife,
Their con­duct was exceed­ing­ly well-bred
And gave no out­ward signs of inward strife,
Until at length the smoth­ered fire broke out
And put the busi­ness past all kind of doubt.

Image and audio extract © Peter Gal­lagher, 2012

…thinking unutterable things


Young Juan wan­dered by the glassy brooks
Think­ing unut­ter­able things. He threw
Him­self at length with­in the leafy nooks
Where the wild branch of the cork for­est grew.
There poets find mate­ri­als for their books,
And every now and then we read them through,
So that their plan and prosody are eli­gi­ble,
Unless like Wordsworth they prove unin­tel­li­gi­ble.

Image and audio extract © Peter Gal­lagher, 2012

A real husband always is suspicious


A real hus­band always is sus­pi­cious,
But still no less sus­pects in the wrong place,
Jeal­ous of some­one who had no such wish­es,
Or pan­der­ing blind­ly to his own dis­grace
By har­bour­ing some dear friend extreme­ly vicious.
The last indeed’s infal­li­bly the case,
And when the spouse and friend are gone off whol­ly,
He won­ders at their vice, and not his fol­ly.

Image and audio extract © Peter Gal­lagher, 2012

And Julia sate with Juan


And Julia sate with Juan, half embraced
And half retir­ing from the glow­ing arm,
Which trem­bled like the bosom where’twas placed.
Yet still she must have thought there was no harm,
Or else’twere easy to with­draw her waist.
But then the sit­u­a­tion had its charm,
And then – God knows what next – I can’t go on;
I’m almost sor­ry that I e’er begun.

Image and audio extract © Peter Gal­lagher, 2012

…Who is the man you search for?


And now, Hidal­go, now that you have thrown
Doubt upon me, con­fu­sion over all,
Pray have the cour­tesy to make it known
Who is the man you search for? How d’ye call
Him? What’s his lin­eage? Let him but be shown.
I hope he’s young and hand­some. Is he tall?
Tell me, and be assured that since you stain
My hon­our thus, it shall not be in vain.

Image and audio extract © Peter Gal­lagher, 2012