Byron Bits 10: Gone with the Wind

A char­ac­ter very much of her own time: albeit one about to come abrupt­ly to an end.
Still Melanie in Gone with the Wind (Olivia de Hav­il­land) proved a survivor.

Toward the end of his short life, Gor­don, Lord Byron was not only out of his coun­try and out of favour, self-exiled in Italy, but also out of his own time. Philosopi­cal­ly, he belonged to a world that was fast dis­ap­pear­ing as his great­est poem appeared in the press. The world that T H White des­ig­nat­ed “The Age of Scan­dal”.

Yet the intel­li­gence, human­i­ty, sharp satire and engag­ing poet­ry of his com­ic epic did not date (unlike, say, Melanie’s bon­net). It had only to bide its time; until Eng­lish taste — in the last quar­ter of the 19th cen­tu­ry — was once more edu­cat­ed by the kind of world­ly expe­ri­ence Byron had won at great per­son­al cost half a cen­tu­ry earlier.

Byron Bits No 10 is devot­ed, most­ly, to a sin­gle pas­sage in Can­to XI of Don Juan where Byron seems nos­tal­gic for the scan­dalous denizens of the Lon­don monde before the defeat of Napoleon. But also clev­er­ly, pre­scient­ly, scorn­ful of the tawdry, bad­ly-behaved char­ac­ters who fol­lowed (some of them the same char­ac­ters, but shrunk).

As usu­al, please click on the “play” but­ton to lis­ten to my short talk here (below) or down­load the MP3 file (about 11Mb). The text of the talk is also avail­able below.

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