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friend Hunt “ I have already said that he is anything but vulgar in his
manners™± ). As a product of the rigorous classical tradition at Christ™s
Hospital, Hunt could not be accused of being one of the ˜Lempriere
dictionary quotation Gentleman™. On  October ± he wrote to tell
Byron he should ˜translate Catullus™s address to the female booksellers
of antiquity™ in order to shame Murray into handing over unpublished
poems. Hunt then supplied his own ˜Improvvisatore-ship™ of the poem
with a transcription of the Latin in case Byron didn™t have a copy of
Catullus in his library. In the same month, Hunt wrote to tell Byron
that he was ˜translating a trampling satire of Al¬eri™s upon trade and
money-getting™. This anticipates the matter of The Age of Bronze, al-
though Hunt™s in¬‚uence on this poem has hitherto been overlooked.
The partnership between Byron and the Hunts worried both Hobhouse
and Moore (as though the Hunts embodied the most monstrous bits of
Don Juanµ ), but Douglas Kinnaird, who approved of Don Juan, also ap-
proved of John Hunt (˜I continue to think highly of his integrity “ & I
see no reason to think you will have cause to repent having made him
your Publisher™). After a cooling of friendship with ¬rst Hobhouse and
then Murray, Byron in ± turned to Hunt (brie¬‚y) then increasingly
to Kinnaird as his most appreciative English readers.
If the second Hints from Horace had been a Popean poem addressed to
a somewhat distanced Hobhouse, a worried Murray, a sceptical Gifford
and a vanishing readership, The Age of Bronze was aware that Byron™s
alliance with the moderate Whig cause had slipped still further. As we
saw in Chapter One, reviewers responded strongly to the rupture of class
boundaries in The Liberal, and even after its demise they continued to
identify Byron with radical politics. Blackwood™s ironically suggested that
±° Byron, Poetics and History
The Age of Bronze was written by the Cockneys and had been attributed
to Byron as a joke:

the ˜Age of Bronze™, begotten by a Cockney, on the body of a muse, name
unknown, is laid upon the steps before his Lordship™s door. The noble Childe,
careless about such matters, tells his valet to give the bantling to any woman
in the house who chances to be nursing; and thus the ricketty wretch passes
for the work of one whose real progeny always shew blood and bone, and glory
in the sin of their sire. (RR, B: ©, p. °)

Their heavy-handed mockery suggests that Blackwood™s wished to defuse
the poem™s satiric potency (it showed ˜carelessness™ and a ˜super¬-
cial knowledge of various matters . . . gleaned from the Opposition
newspapers, and the talk of inferior Whigs™).
Superior Whigs like Lady Holland did not relish the appearance of the
poem either: ˜Ld Byron™s Age of Bronze makes little or no sensation. What it
does, is not favourable: I have not read it. He writes too much™, she wrote
in April ±.· Her lack of warmth is signi¬cant, given that Holland
House was a bastion of neo-classical standards, and that she and Lord
Holland had given explicit approval to the tragedy, Marino Faliero. For
the Hollands, as Leslie Mitchell has observed, ˜Dryden, Swift and Pope
remained unrivalled.™ Byron™s return to Pope in ±“ was, however,
less than welcome. By objecting to Byron™s productiveness, Lady Holland
identi¬ed a threat to the ˜scarcity principle™ of aristocratic elitism. This
was not quite the same as the stylistic ˜vulgarity™ Byron identi¬ed in the
Cockneys in ±±, but it suggests that his later poetry was unpalatable
to both the aristocracy and the ˜middling™ class of readers. Byron was
aware of this change and the return to Pope was his way of measuring
it.
Malcolm Kelsall™s brilliantly revisionary reading of Byron argues that
throughout his career, his political effectiveness was shackled by old Whig
compromises: ˜the retention in Don Juan, however vestigially, of the ideals
of the Whig constitution and the great country house indicates that their
in¬‚uence has not yet been displaced™.µ° I think, however, that there is ev-
idence of a difference between Byron™s classicism in ±°“± and ±“.
Quite simply, the heroic couplet no longer upholds the same sort of hero-
ism as, in the winter of ±“, Byron seemed to become increasingly
disillusioned with the aristocratic English elite.
When Sir James Wedderburne Webster arrived in Genoa in December
±, Byron observed that he ˜has been made a knight for writing against
the Queen . . . He talked a deal of skimble skamble stuff ™, but he noted
±±
˜Between carelessness and trouble™: Byron™s last digressions
that little had changed about the man except his new wig and ˜that his
countenance rather more resembled his backside™.µ± Although he owed
Byron a thousand pounds (from a loan made ten years earlier), Webster
made no offer to pay back even the interest, thus contributing to the im-
pression of a morally and ¬nancially bankrupt aristocracy which shaped
both the later cantos of Don Juan and The Age of Bronze.µ Sir Timothy
Shelley™s initial determination to ˜do nothing™ on Mary Shelley™s be-
half afforded a bleak reminder of the unyielding character of hereditary
pride.µ Between November ± and February ±, the Portsmouth /
Hanson scandal was reported in the newspapers, exposing the squalid
horse-trading and brutalities which could occur unchecked in the ˜great
country house™.µ After years of rumour, an ± commission of lunacy
found that Portsmouth had been insane since ±°. The widely reported
evidence for this verdict included the peer™s obsession with ˜Black Jobs™
(his term for funerals) and his bloodthirsty ill-treatment of servants and
horses. The precision of his slaughter-house fetish (he would strike at
the cattle with an axe, shouting, ˜serves them right, ambitious toads™)
revealed a disturbing urge to dominate others, and was returned with in-
terest by Portsmouth™s second wife and her sisters.µµ Unfortunately, Byron
had been responsible for giving away this bride (his solicitor, Hanson™s,
daughter) when Portsmouth married and had signed an af¬davit in ±±
testifying to Portsmouth™s sanity.
Byron protested to Hobhouse: ˜I could not foresee Lunacy in a Man
who had been allowed to walk about the world ¬ve and forty years as
Compos “ of voting “ franking “ marrying “ convicting thieves on his
own evidence “ and similar past times which are the privileges of Sanity.™
Repeating the story to Lady Hardy he added, ˜nor did he seem to me
more insane than any other person going to be married™.µ Clearly,
the age of chivalry had gone. Although the Portsmouth affair was a
source of gruesomely amusing anecdotes throughout March ±, it
also contributed to Byron™s critical awareness of a corrupted strain in
his aristocratic Whig background. In the months which preceded the
composition of The Age of Bronze and The Island, Byron™s letters also evince
a less hostile attitude to ˜non-genteel reformers™. In particular, he appears
more ready to accommodate the radical aims and af¬liations of the
Hunts.
The evidence for this claim is ¬nely balanced. Byron™s attempts to
extricate himself from The Liberal are well known.µ· In October ±,
besides, Byron duplicated the mistake he had made with Hobhouse, and
sent to Murray a patronising letter about Leigh Hunt™s family which
± Byron, Poetics and History
was circulated and used gleefully against them. Hunt was wounded (as
Hobhouse had been), but on ±± November ± he wrote to advise Byron:
Your Greek apothegm is indeed valuable with regard to men of his [Murray™s]
kind . . . I am sure however, after all, that you wish me to think you mean kindly
and respectfully to me at bottom. I am sure also that the Illiberals wish very
much to the contrary, and that they could sow discord between us. I should like
to disappoint them on that account.µ
Byron did indeed disappoint the ˜Illiberals™. He told Murray that he cared
˜but little for the opinions of the English “ as I have long had Europe
and America for a Public™, and he joked about the cost of ˜becoming
obnoxious to the Blue people™.µ In letters to other friends he saluted the
political courage of the Hunt brothers and their ˜patriot paper™, offered
to come home to lend support in John Hunt™s prosecution, declared
that he wanted to leave more than a ˜mere name™ and asked Hobhouse
to remember him to Burdett, one of the more radical Whigs who (like
Hobhouse and Kinnaird) was out of favour with Holland House.° In
the meantime, Byron™s obsessive concern with his ¬nancial affairs in-
dicated that he wished to make himself independent by the personal
accumulation of wealth, rather than relying on social position.
Financial independence is a Popean characteristic which Byron had
previously overlooked. In English Bards and Scotch Reviewers he had dis-
dained the professional writer, and in his defences of Pope was careful to
avoid all details of Pope™s dedicated professionalism. But by ±, letters
to Kinnaird about funds and insurance policies ¬‚ow thick and fast:
You will smile at all this tirade upon business “ but it is time to mind it “ at least
for me to mind it “ for without some method in it where or what is independence?
the power of doing good to others or yourself. (BLJ, , p. )
The obtrusive attention to ¬nancial matters in The Age of Bronze (especially
the repeated rhyming on the word ˜rent™) completes a dialogue with
Douglas Kinnaird, who was (after Hobhouse) Byron™s closest con¬dant
in England. Kinnaird was on the radical left, and his sexual politics were
far less repressed than Hobhouse™s. It was Kinnaird who coined the
phrase about there being an ˜Eleventh Commandment imposed upon
the female part of our Island™ not to read Don Juan.± His forthright views
come through in a letter of ±µ October ± about the Russian cantos
of Don Juan:
With regards to the new Cantos I am delighted with them “ The Political
Re¬‚ections, the address to Wellington & the Preface are admirable “ But why
Call the Katherine a whore? She hired or whored others “ She was never hired
±
˜Between carelessness and trouble™: Byron™s last digressions
or whored herself “ why blame her for liking fucking? If she had canted as well
as cunted, then call her names as long as you please “ But it is hard to blame
her for following her natural inclinations . . . I looked for more liberality from
you “ You must not turn against rogering “ even tho™ you practice it seldomer.
(MS., John Murray Archive)
Kinnaird was (with Hobhouse) a correspondent who kept Byron™s politics
under close scrutiny. When he was asked to stand as candidate for
Westminster, Kinnaird had declared himself in favour of annually elected
parliaments, universal suffrage and same-day balloting. Since the
Westminster election of ±± which had divided Hobhouse, Kinnaird
and Burdett from the moderate Holland House Whigs, Kinnaird had
been urging Byron to political action: ˜Your Radicalism shall be writ-
ten down™, he told Byron on  October ±±, ˜You shall not only ¬nd a
welcome, but any charge of Horse or other that you may aspire to.™
Kinnaird was keen to detach Byron from the Whigs in the House of
Lords (˜that deceitfull [sic] arrogant Party™), and sent him throughout
±± and ±° urgent and dramatic accounts of Whig factionalism and
national crisis:
We have batter™d the Whigs to a mercury “ Their features are dis¬gur™d into one
mass of deformity “ The People will more readily get at the Government . . .
( October ±±)
Discontent & Distrust do actually dis¬gure the face of this land “ Were the House
of Commons shut up “ men would in all classes begin to think for themselves “
At present they do not . . . (April ±°)
The Whigs as usual have been trimming . . . ( August ±°)
There is nothing too base for the nobility of this Country not to bear or do . . .
(· October ±°)
Rely upon it the Country Gentlemen will bear a great deal more yet . . .
( March ±±: MS., John Murray Archive)
On ± February ± Byron sent to Kinnaird an extended attack on the
˜Country Gentlemen™, to be inserted in The Age of Bronze. He received it
enthusiastically: ˜I am delighted at your attack on the Country Boobies &
half-witted rogues.™ This addition to the satire suggests how closely
Byron was now working with the discourse of the radical Whigs rather
than the rhetoric of Holland House. Following the electioneering of ±±,
Hobhouse repeatedly told Byron about the ˜treacherous™ behaviour of
˜your friends the Whigs™.µ Holland House, he protested ˜has completely
besotted the party “ My lady sent her bastard [Charles Fox] to hiss me on
the hustings, so we are at open war.™ Lord Holland held Byron™s proxy
vote for the ±± session, but after that it was not renewed, ostensibly
± Byron, Poetics and History
because of parliamentary regulations, but also because of an increasing
political gulf between Byron and Holland.
As we saw in Chapter Three, the years ±°“± witnessed a struggle
between different English political and cultural factions to own Byron™s
poetry. In ±° Hobhouse challenged Byron with the view: ˜I am con-
vinced that the proudest of all politicians & the most uncondescending is
the man of principle, the real radical reformer.™· In February ±° Byron
wrote to Murray that he had always been ˜a friend to and a Voter for
reform™. Belatedly and with some misgiving, in the winter of ±“
Byron™s digressive textuality assumed the colours of this more radical
agenda. When he said that The Age of Bronze was for ˜the reading part of
the Million™, it is clear that he was directing it to the educated left. John
Hunt™s explanation of the change in Byron™s readerly appeal makes this
shift of political identity explicit. In a letter of ± April ± John Hunt
acknowledged that the likely sale of ,°°° copies of The Age of Bronze was
much less than the °,°°° or more copies sold of The Corsair:

But your Lordship had not then, I believe, given so many deadly blows to
Corruption and Bigotry . . . there was ˜no offence™ in the Corsair, political or
religious “ and it must likewise be remembered, that the subject of the poem
was one which addressed a much wider circle of readers than the Age of Bronze.
Your Lordship™s last labour of the Island will afford a better test of the state of
opinion. (MS., John Murray Archive)

Byron™s ostensible motives for writing had also changed. Writing from
Greece in December ± he checked with Kinnaird about the publi-
cation of Don Juan and The Island: ˜I am particular on this point only “
because a sum of tri¬‚ing amount even for a Gentleman™s personal ex-
pences in London or Paris “ in Greece can arm and maintain hundreds of
men.™
This shift in ¬nancial priorities can be coupled with Byron™s explicit
attacks on English high life as intrinsically and hypocritically ˜intrigante
and pro¬‚igate™.·° It is also of a piece with the revision of his views on
Hobhouse™s radicalism. When Hobhouse visited Byron in Pisa in
September ±, Byron ¬nally expressed support for his break with the
moderate Whigs: ˜B told me that he had been against me at my election
at ¬rst because he knew nothing about the matter now he was anti-
Whig.™·± It appears that the Whigs at home knew this, and in ± Byron
stated with equanimity: ˜What I have done to displease my aristocratic
connections I can quite understand.™· These exchanges are a vital part
of the compositional context for The Age of Bronze, Don Juan and The Island,
±µ
˜Between carelessness and trouble™: Byron™s last digressions
and help to explicate the differences between works which were com-
posed within a short space of time.
In an isolated ottava rima stanza, ˜On Southey. Detached Thought™,
tentatively dated by McGann to spring ±, Byron ordered and ar-
ranged the distinctions between himself and Robert Southey:
With you I have nought in common, nor would have “
Nor fame, nor feelings, nor the very Earth;
So let us be divided by the grave
As we have been by thought and life and birth.
And when the hungry worms their carrion crave,
When they alone can calculate your worth,
When all your bones are rotten as your heart,
May both our tombs and names be kept apart.
(CPW, ©, p. µ±)

The effect of the ababab section of this stanza is to allow tension to mount
before the last couplet forces Byron and Southey together in order to
separate them eternally: with the word ˜apart™, closure and separation
arrive together. The ruthlessness of the concluding couplet anticipates
the sustained intensity of The Age of Bronze in which the satiric targets
are allowed no room to breathe because they have taken over the whole
world.
The ¬rst section of The Age of Bronze advertises its proximity to the
process of Don Juan by forming a division of eight lines. Thereafter,
the couplets work as paragraphs, running lines on every so often to
remind us that form can be broken if the will is there.· Byron begins by
gesturing to the ˜“good old times”™, and then withdraws certainty from
the idea by suggesting that all historical perspectives are conditioned
by relativity: ˜all times when old are good™ (ll. ± “). Pope™s stable moral
world based on divine order is questioned by displacing the voice of
moral authority in Measure for Measure: ˜I know not if the angels weep™,
and setting in play a repetition (˜but men, / Have wept enough “ for what?
to weep again™) which builds throughout the poem to create ˜history™s

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