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 Citations from the poetry are to Lord Byron. The Complete Poetical Works, ed.
Jerome J. McGann, · vols. (Oxford, ±°“±); when it is necessary to refer
to this edition, the abbreviation CPW will be used.
· Throughout his life Byron commented on the erotic elements in Moore™s
verse, and especially on Moore™s Poetical Works of the Late Thomas Little, Esq.
(±°±). This book, a minor classic in the sentimental style, went through nu-
merous printings, and had an important in¬‚uence on Byron™s early work. For
a fuller discussion see Jerome J. McGann, Fiery Dust. Byron™s Poetic Development
(Chicago, ±), Chapter ±.
 Byron™s Letters and Journals, ed. Leslie A. Marchand (Cambridge, MA, ±·“
±), I, ±°; hereafter cited as BLJ.
 The fullest discussion of this event in Byron™s life is in Willis W. Pratt™s Byron
at Southwell (Austin, TX, ±).
±° “To a Knot of Ungenerous Critics” is the title of one of Byron™s poetical
replies to his Southwell critics: see CPW, I, ±“ (and the related poem at
±·“±).
±± Some of Gifford™s best lines in The Baviad and The Maeviad involve witty sexual
wordplays which call attention not only to the sensuality of Della Cruscan
poetry, but to its self-conscious (and hence, from Gifford™s point of view,
irreal) sensuality. When Byron later saw a similar poetic mode in Keats™s
work, he ridiculed it as “the Onanism of Poetry” (BLJ, VII, ±·) “ a distinctly
Giffordian line of attack.
± In this respect Wordsworth™s was a more successful deployment of the Della
Cruscan program, whose sentimentality inclined toward a travesty of pla-
tonic engagement. This travesty, and Platonism, are especially clear in the
· Byron and Romanticism
famous poetical “love affair” which Della Crusca and Anna Matilda carried
on in the pages of the World in the years ±··“±·. The two had in fact
never even met.
± Thus Byron™s male friendships come to represent a more stable form of love.
Even such love is not completely steady, however, as a number of poems
written to his male friends show. In the myth of love Byron deploys, only one
¬gure is imagined as perfectly faithful “ his sister Augusta.
± See the work of ±± called “A Song” (“Thou art not false, but thou art
¬ckle”), CPW, III, ±°µ“±°.
±µ Byron™s misogyny appears in some of his early poetry as well, although his
commitment to sentimentalism at that stage distinctly undercuts his anti-
feminist views. See especially the poem “To Woman,” printed toward the
end of Hours of Idleness (CPW, I, µ“).
± For an extended discussion of this poem™s text and context see Jerome
J. McGann, “The Signi¬cance of Biographical Context: Two Poems by Lord
Byron,” in The Author in his Work, ed. Louis A. Martz and Aubrey Williams
(New Haven, CT, ±·), ·“.
±· For a full discussion of the linkage see ibid. The essential fact is that the stanza
of “When We Two Parted” which Byron dropped from the printed version
was originally a stanza in the poem to Lady Caroline Lamb.
± See BLJ, X, ±“±.
± See Malcolm Elwin, Lord Byron™s Wife (New York, ±), , °°. The matter
is more fully discussed in chapter , below.
° See n. ±.
± For a related discussion of these matters see my “Lord Byron™s Twin Opposites
of Truth,” in Towards a Literature of Knowledge (Oxford, ±), “.
 This is the ¬rst line of Alan Davies™s excellent prose-poem “Lies,” reprinted
in Signage (New York, ±·), ±±.

CHAPTER


What difference do the circumstances of publication
make to the interpretation of a literary work?



Framed in this way, the question is open to any number of responses: for
the “interpreter,” the critic, is entirely free to decide which material in
the literary event shall be salient for interpretation. The “circumstances
of publication,” therefore, can make a big difference, or no difference
at all, or they can make various kinds of intermediate differences that
could be speci¬ed.
I do not say this to be sophistical, but to call attention to some of
the critical assumptions which generated the question. The question
assumes that “circumstances of publication” make a difference to inter-
pretation, and that such a difference has been demonstrated in certain
critical discussions, perhaps in some of the work that I myself have done.
But the question is aware that these demonstrations create a theoretical
problem for some of the most important governing protocols of our re-
ceived critical ideas: for instance, that bibliography and interpretation
are different modes of literary enquiry and do not (as it were) naturally
correspond with each other; that the social (as opposed to the purely
authorial) dimensions of textual events have no necessary or essential
relation to literary meaning; in general, that hermeneutics must pre-
serve a theoretical (as opposed to an heuristic) distinction between the
“extrinsic” and the “intrinsic” in literary study.
I disagree with these three ideas. Indeed, my own assumptions “ the
frames of my critical practice “ are in each case precisely the inverse
of each one. To my mind, the circumstances of publication always bear
upon literary meaning. The initial question posed to me, therefore, seems
pertinent only as a procedural problem which I would frame in this
way: what are the most useful illustrations I could give of the way the
“circumstances of publication” make a difference to literary meaning?
Since ±·· it is a question I have been much concerned with. Indeed,
when I ¬rst tried to show what kind of a hermeneutical difference
“circumstances of publication” can make, I deliberately chose my
··
· Byron and Romanticism
examples from Keats “ simply because in his work the distinction between
“intrinsic” and “extrinsic” literary matters was thought to be clearly pre-
served. To argue the hermeneutical relevance of “extrinsic” matters in
the case of Keats was to mount a theoretical attack upon ideas about tex-
tual autonomy; and at that time, in ±··, theoretical lines of attack were
very much needed.
Now [±±], everything has changed. This symposium is itself eloquent
testimony to the change that has taken place during the past ten years
of literary studies. I do not have to adduce instances to persuade you
that “circumstances of publication” make a difference to interpretation
because I and many others have already laid down more than a suf¬cient
number of examples.
So let me re-frame the question slightly, and ask: what difference does
it make when “circumstances of publication” are not factored into the
interpretive operation? I offer you two cases, one from Blake and one
from Byron.


THE PROBLEM OF JERUSALEM , PLATE

The opening text page “ plate  “ of Blake™s consummate work offers an
address “To the Public.” It represents a sort of Preface to the poem,
a set of remarks, some in verse and some in prose, which were to help
“explain” what the subsequent work imagines itself to be doing. Jerusalem
is a public performance from “the mouth of a true Orator,” Blake says;
its audience is “the Human Race,” and most immediately the nation
of Great Britain; it is a work of deliberate art (“Every word and every
letter is studied”), but equally a piece of unpremeditated verse “ inspired
work, “dictated” to its “printer” William Blake; and “ though Blake does
not indicate this explicitly “ it comes from the same “God” who years
before had dictated The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, a dweller in ¬‚aming
¬re whose voice is not easily distinguished from Blake™s own mind and
conscience. Finally, the work is executed through what Blake calls “my
types,” an obvious paranomasia that draws an equation between the
poem™s spiritual designs and its material orders.
Works of imagination traf¬c in paradox “ those opposite and discor-
dant qualities which we sometimes imagine poems are made to balance
and reconcile. Plate  of Jerusalem, however, offers at least one paradox
which the imagination will not comfortably seize as beauty. Physicalized
on the plate itself, this paradox is eventual, not conceptual. Blake™s text
assures his reader that what he prints “ his “types” “ will not be done in
·
The circumstances of publication
“vain,” but this opening page of Jerusalem has much of its own message
gouged from the plate. The consequence is not simply a set of awkward
transitions and distracting blank spaces, but positive incoherence.
We must remember that the condition of Plate  is not “momen-
tary” or transitional in the sense that Blake simply neglected to make
the necessary further alterations which would have restored coherence
to his work. Blake had at least ten years, ±±“±, when he might
have “repaired” Plate  (assuming that we are to think of the plate as
“damaged”). Or, if he could not restore a grammatological coherence to
this plate “ if, for example, the copper had been so multilated that it
was no longer able to support a new text “ still Blake had ten years in
which to re-engrave the plate. He did not choose to do this. Instead, he
preserved a scarred discourse as the opening of his text, so that Plate 
must be regarded as what textual scholars sometimes call “the author™s
¬nal intentions.” Every surviving copy of Jerusalem exhibits a Plate  mu-
tilated in just this way, including the copies he sold during those last ten
years, including even the magni¬cent full-colored copy E which Blake
prepared so carefully toward the end.± So far as we can tell, Blake wanted
the reader™s initial encounter with Jerusalem to be through this broken and
ruptured text.
This is an extraordinary situation, but the interpreters of Blake™s
Jerusalem pay little attention to it when discussing the work. We would
have to imagine comparable examples in the history of literature and po-
etry before our period, for nothing equivalent exists in fact. What Blake
has done in Jerusalem is what Milton might have done had he excised cer-
tain phrases and lines from the opening twenty-six verses of Paradise Lost:
had he excised, that is, passages carrying real weight and signi¬cance for
the proemium, and had he then printed and broadcast the poem with
the lacunae left visible.
Blake did not begin Jerusalem as a broken text, he ¬nished it that way.
The difference is crucial. Such a text calls attention to itself as gestural,
performative. However it is to have its “meaning” “interpreted,” the
mutilated text of Plate  is at least making the following representations:
that the words and ¬gures on such a page are arbitrary, and that they
were put there by design (in at least two senses).
If what Blake did in producing his text seems extraordinary, how-
ever, even more astonishing is what the critics have not done in relation
to his act of production. Jerusalem has elicited a great deal of commen-
tary, but very little attention has been paid to the physical condition of
Plate , or to the meaning of that physical condition. Such disinterest is
° Byron and Romanticism
all the more surprising because Blake scholars generally understand that
Blake™s meanings are intimately related to Blake™s productive methods
and physical media.
That most capacious and distinguished of Blake scholars, David
Erdman is virtually alone in the attention he has given to the problem of
Plate . He has expended most of his efforts, however, not in attempting
to solve the riddle of the plate as we have received it, but in trying to re-
store the material which Blake took such pains to eliminate. Of course, the
restoration of that material might tell us much about why Blake erased it
in the ¬rst place; but as it turns out the restored passages are not in them-
selves especially illuminating on that issue. As a consequence, Erdman
interprets the mutilated plate in psychological terms “ as an exponent of
Blake™s unhappiness with his audience and his failure to establish con-
tact with “the Public.” Thus Erdman refers to Blake™s “self-destructive
deletions” which “withdraw . . . the affectionate terms addressed to the
once-dear Reader, [and] effac[e without] . . . quite thoroughly effacing
the poet™s confessions of faith and enthusiasm” (Erdman ±, ±µ).
Given the general condition of Jerusalem, however, this is not a
very compelling argument. The work exhibits no other signs of self-
destruction, nor does the poem otherwise develop the theme of a break-
down of sympathy between author and audience. In any case, it is an
argument which Erdman himself does not work to support in his ed-
itorial treatment of the text. In his standard typographical edition of
Blake™s Complete Works, Blake™s mutilated text is editorially “corrected.”
Erdman™s excellent work in recovering the erased passages results in a
text “ Erdman™s edition “ which puts back the passages that Blake had
so deliberately removed.
I think that this was not the best editorial decision to make. The
recovered passages would have been, I believe, much better placed in a
critical apparatus, and the superior text left to stand as Blake had wanted
it to stand: with its drastic lacunae dramatically visible. However we read
the meaning of Plate  of Jerusalem, we will want to ground our readings
in the mutilated text which Blake produced rather than the editorially
corrected text so brilliantly restored by Erdman.

B Y R O N ™S “FARE T H E E W E L L !”

The problem with this notorious poem is much more complex than the
Blake problem I have been discussing. As we know, Byron addressed the
poem to his wife at the time of the separation controversies in the spring of
±
The circumstances of publication
±±. It descends to us largely through one line of interpretation, where
it is read as a cri de coeur from a heartbroken husband. This is the way the
poem was read by many people in ±±. Madame de Sta¨ l, for instance,
e
and Sir Francis Burdett, and various reviewers all read it this way and
praised it extravagantly (see Mayne ±: µ; and Erdman ±·°: 
and n.). And Wordsworth read it this way as well, only he anticipated
the common, later judgment that the poem is hopelessly mawkish:
“disgusting in sentiment, and in execution contemptible . . . Can worse
doggerel be written . . . ?” (de Selincourt ±·°: III Part , °).µ
But another, very different reading sprang up when the poem began
circulating in ±±, like tares among the wheat of that ¬rst reading.
Byron™s friend Moore “ who was later to endorse the sentimental theory
of the poem “ was at ¬rst deeply suspicious of “the sentiment that could,
at such a moment, indulge in such verses” (Mayne ±: ). Moore
did not elaborate on his suspicions, but others did. The reviewer of The
Prisoner of Chillon and Other Poems in the Critical Review of December ±±
paused to re¬‚ect on the earlier “domestic” poem:

[M ]any who disapproved most of his lordship™s . . . publication of his “Farewell”
address, as in¬‚icting a parting and lasting pang upon his lady, thought that the
lines were most delightfully pathetic, and wondered how a man, who shewed he
had so little heart, could evince such feeling. They did not know how easy it was
for a person of his lordship™s skill to fabricate neatly-turned phraseology, and for
a person of his lordship™s ingenuity to introduce to advantage all the common-
places of affection: the very excellence of that poem in these particulars, to us
and to others, was a convincing proof that its author had much more talent
than tenderness. (Critical Review [±±], µ··“µ·)

As it happens, Anabella herself, the person to whom “Fare Thee Well!”
was most directly addressed, read the poem in just this insidious way.
It seemed to her yet another instance of Byron™s “talent for equiv-
ocation . . . of [which] I have had many proofs in his letters.” On
± February, a month before Byron wrote his poem, she explained this
“talent” further and pointed out that she learned about it from Bryon
himself:

I should not have been more deceived than I was by his letters, if he had not
pointed out to me in similar ones addressed to others, the deepest design in
words that appeared to have none. On this he piques himself “ and also on being
able to write such letters as will convey different, or even opposite sentiments to
the person who receives them & to a stranger. (Elwin ±: °°)
 Byron and Romanticism
“Every day,” she added, “proves deeper art” in her husband. What she
most feared was “this ambiguity of Language in the Law,” that it would
give Byron an advantage over her in the separation proceedings.
Anabella went on to add two observations which are equally interest-
ing and shrewd. Byron™s skill in manipulating language reminded her of
a passage in Lara (I, µ°“µ°) in which the deportment of that Byronic

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