Don Juan Cantos I & II, Bicentennial Edition

Don Juan first appeared in Lon­don book­stores on 15 July, 1819 in a high-qual­i­ty quar­to-for­mat con­tain­ing Can­tos I and II. The book dis­played nei­ther the author’s name nor the pub­lish­er’s. But the iden­ti­ty of both was an open secret. The pub­lish­er, John Mur­ray, had been teas­ing the forth­com­ing pub­li­ca­tion for a fort­night with adver­tise­ments in the Lon­don papers.

I am offer­ing the anno­tat­ed and nar­rat­ed edi­tion of Can­tos I & II (please down­load using the but­tons below the cov­er-page image) as a 200th anniver­sary cel­e­bra­tion of the event that launched the great­est com­ic poem in eng­lish and Byron’s mature poet­ic career.

I hope the anno­ta­tions, illus­tra­tions and nar­ra­tion will make the jibes and jokes of 1819 just as live­ly today as they were then. I hope they will add, too, some of the per­spec­tive that two cen­turies of crit­i­cism and appre­ci­a­tion have giv­en us on Byron’s inno­va­tions and art.

This edi­tion is not, of course, a hand­some leather-bound quar­to book but an “e‑book” (PDF) that you can read on a com­put­er, your tablet or even on your phone. You can also print the pages (A4 size for best results). There are some details here on the con­tent of the book. You’ll find some sam­ples of my nar­ra­tion here.

My nar­ra­tion of the two can­tos is con­tained in two MP3s that you can down­load sep­a­rate­ly from the text. The audio and text are linked by tim­ing marks in the text. I am cer­tain Byron meant his poem to be read aloud; so the audio is not, in my view, sec­ond-class access to his bril­liant comedic performance. 

There are hun­dreds of hours of work in this file and the audio, as well as stu­dio costs for the record­ings. It is, of course, a labor of love; so I am reward­ed by my enjoy­ment of Don Juan. But I am encour­aged by your enjoy­ment. Please let me know in com­ments; please Tweet your reac­tions and crit­i­cisms to @madbaddangerous.

If you would like to share your plea­sure in Byron’s poet­ry, plays and let­ters please con­sid­er join­ing a local Byron soci­ety. I owe a debt to the Byron Soci­ety of the UK and to their Direc­tor, Emi­ly Pater­son-Mor­gan (@EPatersonMorgan), for kind­ly allow­ing me to post some arti­cles relat­ed to this project on the Soci­ety’s web­site.


  1. Many thanks for this Peter. It is a fine and wor­thy tribute.
    Audio cer­tain­ly isn’t sec­ond-class access when it is read this well.

  2. Great job Peter. I am a novice as far as Don Juan is con­cerned but I’ll treat your work as a gift as it already has drawn me in.

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