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Lord Byron at Harrow School

Speaking Out, Talking Back, Acting Up, Bowing Out

Paul Elledge

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The first book-length scholarly examination of the four critically formative years of Byron's public school experience, 1801-1805

How did Byron become "Byron"? In Lord Byron at Harrow School: Speaking Out, Talking Back, Acting Up, Bowing Out, Paul Elledge locates one origin of the poet's personae in the dramatic recitations young Byron performed at Harrow School. This is the first book-length scholarly examination of the four critically formative years of Byron's public school experience, 1801 to 1805, when Harrow enjoyed high subscription and fame under Dr. Joseph Drury, headmaster. Finding…

The first book-length scholarly examination of the four critically formative years of Byron's public school experience, 1801-1805

How did Byron become "Byron"? In Lord Byron at Harrow School: Speaking Out, Talking Back, Acting Up, Bowing Out, Paul Elledge locates one origin of the poet's personae in the dramatic recitations young Byron performed at Harrow School. This is the first book-length scholarly examination of the four critically formative years of Byron's public school experience, 1801 to 1805, when Harrow enjoyed high subscription and fame under Dr. Joseph Drury, headmaster. Finding its genesis in the boy's intrepid appearance on three Speech Day programs, the book argues that Byron's early performances addressed anxieties, conflicts, rivalries, and ambitions that were instrumental in shaping the poet's character, career, and verse.

Elledge carefully examines the historical and biographical contexts to Byron's Harrow performances, showing their relevance to Byron's physical and psychic landscapes at the time—his connections to his mother and half-sister, his headmasters and tutors, his Harrow intimates and rivals, his lameness, his London theatrical spectatorship. Byron's performances in the characters of King Latinus from the Aeneid, Zanga the Moor from Edward Young's The Revenge, and King Lear provide an opportunity to examine his early experiments with self-presentation: as Elledge argues, these performances are "auditions or trials of performative and autotherapeutic strategies, subsequently refined and polished in the mature verse." Throughout, Elledge reads the boy for the sake of reading the poet; he shows how young Byron's introduction to theatricality at Harrow School prepared him to make a confident and spectacular debut on Europe's cultural stage.

"His selection of texts for declaiming—the discourse of two kings and a show-stealing, scene-chewing villain—participates in a larger pattern of deliberate self-fashioning that began at least as early as Byron's Harrow years and evolved into the elaborate mode and vogue of self-representation that partially, with his hefty patronage, helped to define the era. To discern his initial experiments with identity formation, to watch his auditions, his inaugural performances of "Byron"—in the provincial run, so to speak, before his London premiere—to track the emergence of these constructs from a confluence of wondrous adolescent energies is to understand anew why and how enduringly certain events and relationships wrote themselves into the text that Byron famously became."—from the Prologue

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Lord Byron at Harrow School

Paul Elledge

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Reviews

Reviews

One of the best of the many partial biographies that Byron has received... Thanks to Elledge's psychobiographical probing, not only the troubled youth but the mature poet comes better into focus.

Lord Byron at Harrow School is fine work. Elledge gives a valuable, detailed picture of Byron.

[A] witty and learned study of Byron's schooldays... Elledge's sensitive textual analysis of Byron's self-dramatization in his earliest letters is particularly impressive, and will hopefully inspire others to follow in his footsteps by examining the performative aspect of the correspondence of his adult years.

A work that gives us new insight into Byron's youth and its relation to his later poetry.

Lord Byron at Harrow School is an exquisitely written, scholarly informed, and deeply considered study of Byron's psychological and social development. Elledge's book not only greatly expands our knowledge of the circumstances in which the most popular poet of the nineteenth century assumed an eloquent and mobile identity, but it goes a long way toward rehabilitating romanticism as a theatrical culture.

About

Book Details

Publication Date
Status
Available
Trim Size
5.5
x
8.5
Pages
256
ISBN
9780801863431
Illustration Description
13 halftones
Table of Contents

Acknowledgements
Abbreviations
Prologue
Chapter 1. Tutor and Tenant
Chapter 2. Virgilian King: 5 July 1804
Part I
Chapter 3. William Henry West Betty
Chapter 4. Villain: 6 June 1805
Part II
Chapter 5

Acknowledgements
Abbreviations
Prologue
Chapter 1. Tutor and Tenant
Chapter 2. Virgilian King: 5 July 1804
Part I
Chapter 3. William Henry West Betty
Chapter 4. Villain: 6 June 1805
Part II
Chapter 5. Shakespearean King: 4 July 1805
Epilogue: "The Sixth of June"
Notes
Selected Bibliography
Index

Author Bio
Featured Contributor

Paul Elledge

Paul Elledge is a professor of English and Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Science at Vanderbilt University. He is the author of Byron and the Dynamics of Metaphor.