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written in ±±µ, he said, about events in ±±“±±µ.± The poem was
published in Byron™s slim volume of Poems (±±), the book which also
contained the notorious “Fare Thee Well!” and which, as a whole, was
fashioned as a kind of summing-up of Byron™s life since he left school and
entered the fast and false world. The “false date” suggested, among other
things, that the events in Byron™s life between ±° (the “date” of “When
We Two Parted”) and ±± (the year when Byron™s wife left him “ left
him, as Byron so theatrically lamented in “Fare Thee Well!”) represent a
history of Byron™s sufferings at the hands of lying and unfaithful women.
And the crown of thorns in that series of sufferings was, mirabile dictu,
Annabella Milbanke.
Byron states his poetical case against her in his “Lines on Hearing that
Lady Byron was Ill,” which he wrote late in ±±, while he was working at

“My brain is feminine”
Manfred. The poem turns her “illness” into a symbolic event, an outward
and physical sign of an inward and spiritual condition. Lady Byron, the
poem charges, was in fact the unfaithful one in their relationship, the
wife who, whatever his faults, would not remain “faithful” to him when
he was begirt with foes. Indeed, as Byron™s “moral Clytemnestra” (·)
she is made to epitomize Byron™s wonderful idea of “moral” adultery:
And thus once enter™d into crooked ways,
The early Truth, which was thy proper praise,
Did not still walk beside thee”but at times
And with a breast unknowing its own crimes,
Deceit, averments incompatible,
Equivocations, and the thoughts which dwell
In Janus-spirits”the signi¬cant eye
Which learns to lie with silence”the pretext
Of Prudence, with advantages annex™d”
The acquiescence in all things which tend,
No matter how, to the desired end”
All found a place in thy philosophy. (·“µ)

The terms are familiar: like Susan Vaughan and so many others,
Annabella is a ¬end of equivocations, a woman “ the woman “ who
knows how to lie like truth, in this case, to “lie with silence.” As applied
to the historical Lady Byron, the charges are not unwarranted; neverthe-
less, the woman addressed in this poem is just as imaginery as the Susan
Vaughan, the Caroline Lamb, and the Frances Wedderburn Webster we
saw in the other poems. However applicable to Annabella, therefore, this
passage has to be read primarily as the key element in a poetical structure
of re¬‚ections, has to be read “ in short “ as a self-portrait, down to the
very details of its own unconsciousness (“And with a breast unknowing
its own crimes”).
Byron™s texts about unfaithful women were the schools in which he
learned to lie with silence. His writing, he told his wife, was an art of
equivocation, and its greatness, in a lyric mode, is that it comes in the
end to fall under its own judgments:±
For thou art pillow™d on a curse too deep;
Thou hast sown in my sorrow, and must reap
The bitter harvest in a woe as real! (“)

Like the other lyrics we have examined, Byron appears to address this
poem to another person; nevertheless, it ¬nally speaks to, and of, himself
alone “ that is to say, himself as an individual, and himself as a Romantic
 Byron and Romanticism
solitary. The poem is a deception at every level, and most patently at the
level of its rhetoric, where its massive self-absorption comes masked as
the spoken word. This work was spawned in “hours of solitude.” The
pronouns shift their referents because the curse Byron refers to is a kind
of secular Original Sin: moral or imaginative righteousness, the sense
that one knows what is true (one™s self ) and what is false (the Other), and
that the truth one “knows” will set one free. The actual truth, however,
as Blake equally saw, is nothing but a “body of falsehood” fashioned in a
state of Urizenic solitude. Consequently, the function of poetry “ of this
poetry of Byron™s “ is to reveal that body of falsehood, to expose the lies
which the mind through its imagination conjures up.
The unfaithfulness of Byron™s many women, therefore, is in the end
a Byronic ¬gura of the betrayed and betraying imagination, which is a
speci¬cally male imagination. Manfred is a crucial work in Byron™s career,
then, because it fully objecti¬es the self-destructiveness of this imagi-
nation. Astarte dies not at a blow from Manfred™s hand but by a look
into his heart. Her “heart,” Manfred™s epipsyche, “gazed on mine and
withered” (, , ±±). That catastrophic event involves the deconstruc-
tion of the self-deceived and self-destructive Romantic imagination. The
death of Astarte is a poetical representation not of the death of a woman,
Manfred™s sister/beloved, but the death of an idea, an idol, even an ideol-
ogy. Astarte is Manfred™s homunculus, his imagination, and the triumph
¬gured in this play is the triumph of Manfred™s “life” over the long dis-
ease of his imagination. Manfred™s death, in this sense, is the sign that
he has ¬nally found it possible to live (or at least to imagine living), has
¬nally escaped those fatal and Romantic illusions of living and loving
which Manfred names, signi¬cantly, Astarte.
Nothing more dramatically reveals the play™s awareness of lying and
equivocation, and of its own investment in such things, than the so-called
“Incantation” uttered over the unconscious body of the play™s hero.
As I have argued in some detail elsewhere, this poem, ¬rst published
separately by Byron as a curse and denunciation of his wife, is so incor-
porated into Manfred as to become a judgment on his play™s hero, and
thereby a judgment on himself.° The Manfred text of the curse “reads”
the earlier, separately published text and exposes the reciprocal truth of
its lying representations. “A Voice” speaks the truth over the unconscious
Manfred “ that his “unfathomed gulfs of guile,” “the perfection of [his]
art,” “call upon” him through this voice, and “compel” him not merely
to see that he is a hell unto himself: they compel him “to be thy proper
Hell!” (±, ±, “µ±, my italics). Manfred™s Romantic imagination, which
µ
“My brain is feminine”
represented itself to itself as a resort and an escape from an imperfect
world, is actually an Original Sin committed against that world, a way
of seeing that, just because it is merely a way of seeing and not a way of
reciprocating, becomes a way of life which is properly called “Hell,” the
¬nal solitude. The “Voice” that speaks over Manfred is, as it were, the
silenced voice of Astarte, Manfred™s epipsyche now not to be represented
as a visible ¬gure (which is her emanative form as Manfred™s superego)
but rather as an audible voice (which is her spectrous form as libido). The
character Manfred is not permitted in his play to see or understand this
action literally, but Byron™s play “ both as an intrinsic dramatic event and
an extrinsic communicative exchange “ is a declarative embodiment of
that action. Thus, when Manfred at last falls in with Lady Byron and
all of Byron™s other ¬gures of lying and betrayal, the entire structure of
Byronic betrayal, initiated through Charlotte Dacre and her betrayal, is
exposed and confessed.
In tracing this literary history I have taken for granted that we un-
derstand how literary texts “ poems, novels, plays “ are always deployed
in the practical mode of “communicative exchanges”: simply, that they
are produced in some material way or another. (In terms of those ex-
changes, the choice to write and not to publish, or to circulate privately, is
just as important as the choice to publish.) The bibliography of a literary
work is therefore the archive, the memorial machine, which de¬nes and
preserves those exchanges.
In the case I have been dealing with here, several of the crucial texts
were not published by Byron: the poem to Susan Vaughan was not
circulated at all, the poem to Lady Caroline was allowed to circulate
among a small group of Regency intimates, and the poem on Lady
Byron™s illness was also shown only to a few people. None of the texts
appeared in print in Byron™s lifetime. Furthermore, the crucial lines in
“When We Two Parted” which repeat the misogynist message of “Go “
triumph securely” were also not published by Byron; he took them out
of the published poem and only revealed them later, toward the end of
his life, in a letter to Lady Hardy.
In his published work between ±° and ±±, therefore, Byron™s myth
of the fallen women is distinctly muted; indeed, the fact that an elaborate
mechanism of concealments has been set in motion is itself concealed.
“I speak not “ I trace not “ I breathe not thy name”: this notorious line
from what is perhaps Byron™s most notorious unpublished poem may
stand as the epigraph of the Byronic mode. The Byronic hero suffers
under some secret sin, and the entire structure of alienations which he
 Byron and Romanticism
both exposes and represents is a function of that sin, which is never
identi¬ed. The poems we have been reading, however, show quite clearly
that the unrevealed sin is the offspring of a habit of imaginative deceptions
and misrepresentations. It has no name, this sin; it is the sin which dare
not, which cannot, speak its name precisely because it has imagined itself
as the Unspeakable. And that, exactly, is what Byron™s work in this period
communicates: that the inability or unwillingness to communicate is
always an essential feature of the communicative exchange.

III

From ±±· to the end of his life Byron™s work is consciously preoccupied
with Poetry and Truth. As in the ¬rst part of his career, therefore, he
is much concerned with the topic of lies and deceptions, with what he
liked to call, generically, “cant.” But the issues are treated with greater
self-consciousness, if not greater intensity and poetical force, in the later
work. This comes about largely because from ±± Byron tried to include
himself in, even identify himself with, that company he had imaged as
the forever fallen: the company of women. When the Byron of ±°“±±
writes about those who “once fallen for ever must fall,” he struggles to
distance himself from the judgment they are subjected to. His righteous-
ness is the moral adultery he will imagine as, and call “Lady Byron,”
Annabella, Clytemnestra. That is to say, it is himself.
The Byron of ±±·“±, however, including his female imaginations,
is very different. The difference is registered in the dramatic shift in public
judgment. No longer the bad but adorable creature of Regency England,
the Byron of the Don Juan period is an all-but-hopeless case even in the
eyes of those reviewers who had earlier celebrated his work most loudly.
And this general abandonment of Byron by the reviews is a true reading
of his latest work, for the poetry of ±±·“± has itself abandoned some
of the key moral imaginations which drove and tormented the work of
±°“±±.
The Donna Julia of Don Juan, Canto I, is the governing type of his
new feminine imagination. In a sense, of course, nothing has changed,
for Julia is both a liar and an adulteress. In her incomparable letter to
Juan, she even acknowledges that she is one of the forever fallen, bound
fatally to “[p]ursue to the last the career she begun,” that is, “To love
again, and be again undone” (I, st. ±). The difference lies not in her
circumstantial life, but in her consciousness of those circumstances. Julia
·
“My brain is feminine”
knows herself “ wants to know herself “ in herself, and is not constructing
her Self through stories of self-justi¬cation.
Yet if I name my guilt, ™tis not to boast,
None can deem harshlier of me than I deem:
I trace this scrawl because I cannot rest”
I™ve nothing to reproach, nor to request.
(I, st. ±)

This is a new image of the Byronic epipsyche, a female ¬gura who rep-
resents not so much sinfulness as the knowledge of sinfulness, a ¬gure of
sympathy and understanding. Julia is the ¬gure who, in refusing to cast
reproaches, heaps coals of ¬re “ a curse of forgiveness “ on her lover.
In the lyric works we glanced at earlier, the male speaker “ the Byronic
persona “ speaks to his faithless lover in very different terms. The power
of such works comes precisely from their non-consciousness, from their
ability to create what the writing does not understand “ ¬nally, to cre-
ate and then themselves represent a ¬gure of self-deception and lack of
understanding.
Julia™s letter is in the genre of those earlier poems. It represents, how-
ever, the Byronic epipsyche™s response to her creator “ as it were, the
“word[s] for mercy” which Manfred had begged in vain to hear from
Astarte (, , ±µµ).
My brain is feminine, nor can forget”
To all, except your image, madly blind;
As turns the needle trembling to the pole
It ne™er can reach, so turns to you my soul.
(I, st. ±µ)

Here the structure of the Byronic myth of the feminine is fully revealed.
For there are two writers of these lines: Julia, the “soul” and “image”
and epipsyche of Byron and his alter-ego Juan; and Lord Byron him-
self, who here conjures a way (something Manfred failed to do) for that
“image” to turn and speak to him in more than simply cryptic tones. The
“Julia” of these lines says that her lover Juan is her “soul,” her epipsy-
che. In making this revelation, however, she speaks as the epipsyche of
her poetical creator Lord Byron, out of that structure of creation we
have been looking at in Byron™s various sentimental lyrics. This speaking
image, Byron™s feminine brain, thus makes explicit a concealed truth of
the dynamic of sentimental love as it plays itself out in his poetry: that it is
 Byron and Romanticism
a mechanism of truth-telling, a procedure whereby ¬gures of imagintion
tell the truth about their creators, whether the latter are aware of those
truths or not.
In moral terms, this change in the character of the Byronic epipsy-
che appears as a new set of ideas about what it means to tell the truth
and what it means to lie.± Don Juan projects many kinds of lies and
liars, of course, but the poem™s quintessential ¬gure of lying is, appropri-
ately and characteristically, female. This feminine brain, which Byron
ultimately de¬nes as “mobility,” reigns from Julia™s bedchamber to Lady
Adeline™s drawing-room. Far from standing as a ¬gure of reproach, how-
ever, Byron™s feminine brain becomes in Don Juan a device “ both a ¬gure
and a mechanism “ of redemption.
This change is especially clear in Canto IX when Byron digresses from
a thought about the duplicity “Of politicians and their double front, /
Who live by lies, yet dare not boldly lie”:
Now What I love in women is, they won™t
Or can™t do otherwise than lie, but do it
So well, the very truth seems falsehood to it.
And after all, what is a lie? ™Tis but
The truth in masquerade; and I defy
Historians, heroes, lawyers, priests to put
A fact without some leaven of a lie.
(sts. “·)

The stanzas weigh in the balance the lies of women and the lies of men
(from politicians to priests). The difference lies in this: that the lies of
the feminine brain are imagined to be clear, conscious, even brazen,
whereas the male brain is unaware of either the substance, the structure,
or even the fact of its lying. Indeed, it is this lack of consciousness which
turns the lies of the male brain into that central Byronic nemesis called
“cant.” The hero of this late discourse on the art of lying is, of course, the
Julia of Canto I, whose magni¬cent lying tirade against her cuckolded
husband “ delivered to his face, in her bedroom, while her lover hides
under the bedclothes “ is a vision of judgment against him. It is such
a vision because the poem means to expose the ¬gure of Julia to us
fully “ means to expose her even in her awareness of herself as a liar
and an adulteress. In this exposure she stands in sharp contrast to Don
Alphonso, whose presence in his wife™s bedroom stands as the poem™s
¬rst great ¬gure of “cant,” that ¬gure of “double dealing” who conceals
his lies and deceptions under a parade of openness and truth.

“My brain is feminine”
Both “lying” and “cant” are departures from the truth. Nevertheless,
Byron comes to argue that the distinction between these two “forms
of life” is neither trivial nor false. Everyone is involved in deception;
only the canting person rei¬es these deceptions, seeks to turn them from
images of falsehood into ¬gures of “truth.” The latter is precisely the
extension of the meaning of the word “cant” which Byron™s work car-
ries out. Southey is therefore called not merely a liar in Don Juan, he

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