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But how faith is acquired, and then insured,
So well not one of the aforesaid paints
As Saint Augustine in his ¬ne Confessions,
Which make the reader envy his transgressions.

Is there yet another odd self-justi¬cation nested in these lines, even as Byron
“clari¬es” himself to himself (and to others?) by looking into the glass of
irony? At some level, did Byron want his English readers, even those whom
he had wounded, to “envy his transgressions”? But is this ¬nally Byron™s
trap, or the trap of all beguiling rhetorics?
J J M : What a passage you™ve chosen, one of the most cryptic in the poem. The
clear irrelevance of this to the character Juan is the reader™s signal that
Byron is here seriously en masque “ talking about himself, and, of course,
as you say, about and to the reader. Always the reader. And I certainly
agree with your suggestion that he is re¬‚ecting B E F O R E H I S R E A D E R S on
the textual intercourse that has been going on since at least ±±, when he
woke and found himself famous.
The passage is a mare™s nest. What is this “faith” being spoken of here,
what is this absence of “restraints,” what is the relation of these things?
The reference to St. Augustine™s Confessions, and to readerly “envy,” is too
close to the Byronic reading scene to miss. The text is certainly another of
those “mad, bad, and dangerous to know” moments. I don™t know what it
° Byron and Romanticism
all “means” but I do know that it is a classic example of calling the reader to
thought and judgment. Surely its only “meaning” is like Ahab™s doubloon
(Ahab, the direct linear descendant of the Byronic Hero). Or I think as
well of Demogorgon™s way of talking and of Asia™s realization that “Each
to himself must be the oracle” of their prophetic import.
J S : I take it that Byron is looking back to St. Augustine through Rousseau yet
without citing the “apostle of af¬‚iction” who really did make his sins appear
enchanting. The lives of the saints become “Studies In Faith” rather than
in Prohibition, and as such they are insurance policies against the sort of
temptation that St. A., despite himself, could not avoid: the temptation to
confess himself, in writing, A S A V I S I B L E, L E G I B L E T R A N S G R E S S I O N.
Rousseau happily fell prey to the same urge, and Byron, who could hardly
resist being what Starobinski calls “the cynosure of all eyes,” turns the world
into his confessor, and thus violates his own privacy. This is both autotelic
and autoerotic: the poet/oracle at once center and circumference. The
performance must have given Byron exquisite pleasure.
J J M : Yes he™s certainly thinking of Rousseau “ Byron was fascinated by the
comparisons his contemporaries drew between himself and the apostle of
af¬‚iction, and of course he explicitly summoned the comparisons in Childe
Harold, Canto III. For critical review, however “ we want to remember that.
Is there any doubt that he passed a terrible judgment on himself in that
canto “ turning as he does on his chief ¬gurae: Napoleon, the Byronic Hero,
Rousseau. “The performance must have given Byron exquisite pleasure”:
indeed, and that is just what horri¬es him. Never was his bleeding heart
more effectively trailed across its double mirror, the mirror of art and the
bloody landscape of Europe in which he re¬‚ects upon his heart and his
art. From Rousseau™s Confessions through Waterloo, Byron conjures a vision
of the Pleasures of the Imagination. It is his ¬rst explicit and comprehen-
sive “ and of course political “ critique of Romanticism, the whole of it
now viewed as a kind of Satanic School with himself as the furthest fallen
angel. And when he is able, a few years later, to observe the Coda of that
pitiful tragedy, the Congress of Vienna and the European Settlement, the
conclusion is so wretched he can only raise that self-defense of his ludic
cynicism, so touching and so fragile.
J S : Sometimes that liberally bleeding heart is awfully hard to follow, as in the
following, stanza  of CHP III.

What deep wounds ever closed without a scar?
The heart™s bleed longest, but heal to wear
That which dis¬gures it; and they who war
With their own hopes, and have been vanquish™d, bear
Silence, but not submission: in his lair
Fix™d Passion holds his breath, until the hour
Which shall atone for years; none need despair:
It came, it cometh, and will come,”the power
To punish or forgive, in one we shall be slower.
°
Byron and Romanticism, a dialogue
“The heart™s bleed”? “bear / Silence”? And that penultimate line is so, well,
B A D (as poetry). The whole stanza seems to be an encoded message: a hall
of encryptions. What a tremendous relief to have “Clear, placid Leman!”
stretch out before us in the next stanza, in contrast to the deeply “troubled
waters” of the stanza above.
J J M : I guess I don™t understand your ¬rst two questions “ about the heart™s
wounds bleeding longest, or about the hopeless having to bear the silence
their hopelessness has chosen. But that the stanza is encrypted, yes. Its
coded immediate subject “ the unnamed Lady Byron and all those he saw
as supporting her public campaign “ is exceedingly dif¬cult for Byron to
treat honestly. That™s why, every time he does (before ±±), the poetry turns
tormented, as it does here. And the issue goes to the heart of what we™ve
just been talking about here: hypocrisy, cant, self-deception. How can he
justify himself when he knows his own guilt, how expose the hypocrisy of
his attackers? So he works by encryption, or what he will later see as “the
truth in masquerade.”
But on the second issue, the “B A D . . . poetry.” I wonder why you think it
bad, I don™t at all. Indeed, the stanza seems to me quintessentially Romantic
and Byronic. Romantic, ¬rst, because the stanza rides on a rhetoric of sin-
cerity. Byronic, second, for the reasons we™ve just been discussing. The
stanza illustrates “the spoiler™s art” as well as any I know in Byron “ the
art, that is to say, of forcing recalcitrant material to submit to his will-
fulness. Byron comes to his language posing Humpty Dumpty™s famous
question: “Who is to be master?” His treatment of the Spenserian stanza
in Childe Harold™s Pilgrimage is simply breathtaking for me, and this stanza
is no exception. He succeeds exactly because he is completely aware of
“the irregularity of [his] design” on the stanza. Its spoliation is the emblem
he raises for the human spirit against “history, tradition, and the facts.”
Later, in Don Juan, he will re¬‚ect on this untrammeled Romanticism and
call himself “a devil of a mannerist” in deploying it. Spoiling one™s lan-
guage inheritance to save its human spirit “ Wordsworth™s very program
in another dialect and register, of course “ will come under Byron™s critical
judgment, as do all things for him.
One ¬nal word about this stanza you quote. Look at that remarkable
last couplet and ask yourself: in W H I C H one? And what precisely does
Byron mean by “slower”? Or consider that image of an inexorable fa-
tality in the penultimate line. Byron ¬‚aunts his own power in all his
writing but, as this stanza intimates, the act involves a bold temptation
of Fate. Byron summons the “power” of Fate knowing full well that he
cannot exempt himself from its authority should his fearful prayer be
answered.
J S : If so, then perhaps this summoning is Byron™s “amor fati,” an idea and ideal
that seems to operate in several registers: for example, the piloting of the
stanza towards technical spoliation. Is that somehow a re¬‚ection of his
malaise or productive of it? Or is this like trying to pull apart the dancer
and the dance?
° Byron and Romanticism
JJM: It™s not his malaise, the stanza re¬‚ects a general condition of culture.
“Byron” is its representative ¬gure in this case, as “Byronism” is one of
its strains. Nor is the condition adequately represented as a “malaise,” any
more than (say) Wordsworth™s famous language “reforms” are adequately
characterized as such. Those reforms doomed, for example, whole ranges
of important poetical work to a long period of cultural invisibility and exile.
Here Crabbe is the exemplary case, an artist of immense skill and power.
But he speaks an alien tongue to our Romantically trained ears. And so do
a number of important women writers who have recently swum into our
ken. Byron™s “malaise” is a prophetic diagnosis of his own culture and its
Romanticism. That™s why it still speaks to us so directly.
J S : I think “ I hope “ what also speaks to us directly is the opposite of this
malaise: what I would call Byron™s “gay science” or his “joyful wisdom.”
I refer again to those lovely apples.
Man fell with apples, and with apples rose,
If this be true, for we must deem the mode
In which Sir Isaac Newton could disclose
Through the then unpaved stars the turnpike road,
A thing to counterbalance human woes;
For ever since immortal man hath glowed
With all kinds of mechanics, and full soon
Steam-engines will conduct him to the Moon.
And wherefore this exordium?”Why, just now,
In taking up this paltry sheet of paper,
My bosom underwent a glorious glow,
And my internal Spirit cut a caper:
And though so much inferior, as I know,
To those who, by the dint of glass and vapour,
Discover stars, and sail in the wind™s eye,
I wish to do as much by Poesy.
A more delightful, self-delighting dialectic of gravity and levity, of gravita-
tion and levitation, is hard to imagine. It™s Byron Unbound, no?
J J M : Indeed, as Shelley thought:

These are the spells by which to reassume
An empire o™er the disentangled Doom.

NOTES

± Cf. McGann, Byron and Wordsworth (Nottingham: The Byron Foundation,
±). By “consciously debased” I mean what Madame de Sta¨ l meant when
e
she described Goethe™s art in the ¬rst part of Faust in the same terms. Her
explication of Goethe had a signal impact on Byron™s view of his own writing,
and speci¬cally on Manfred.
°µ
Byron and Romanticism, a dialogue
 Frank O™Hara, “Personism. A Manifesto,” in The Collected Works of Frank
O™Hara, ed. Donald Allen (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, ±µ), .
 Susan Howe, My Emily Dickinson (Berkeley: North Atlantic, ±µ).
 Susan Sontag, Against Interpretation (New York: Dell Publishing Co., Inc., ±).
µ Randall McLeod, “Editing Shakespeare,” Sub-Stance, “ (±), “µµ;
Random Clod, “Information on Information,” TEXT µ (±), “;
Random Cloud, “Fiat¬‚ux,” in Crisis in Editing: Texts of the English Renaissance.
ed. Randall MC Leod (New York: AMS Press, ±), ± “±µ·. Charles
Bernstein, Content™s Dream (Los Angeles: Sun & Moon Press, ±); My
Way. Speeches and Poems (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, ±); Susan
Howe, The Birth-Mark. Unsettling the Wilderness in American Literary History
(Hanover and London: Wesleyan University Press, ±). Steve McCaffery,
North of Intention. Critical Writings ±·“± (New York: Roof Books, ±);
Steve McCaffery and B. P. Nichol, Rational Geomancy. The Kids of the Book
Machine. The Collected Research Reports of the Toronto Research Group ±·“±,
ed. Steve McCaffery (Vancouver: Talon Books, ±). Jeffrey Skoblow, Para-
dise Dislocated (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, ±) and Dooble
Tongue. Scots, Burns, and Contradiction (Newark: University of Delaware Press,
°°±).
Subject index




aesthetics, dandyism
and decorum, ± cultural history of, “
and Enlightenment,  poetry of, 
and escapism, µ° deconstruction
and form, ±° and criticism, ±, , °“±°,
and poetry, ° µ
and Romanticism,  Della Cruscan School, µµ, ±“±
digital media, 
aporia,
and deconstruction, ± double-talk
and homosexuality, 
artists
as charmingly unreliable, “
audience, editing
and manipulation, ±± in codex form, 
and scholarly editions, 
either/or, ±±, ±·
Byronism
and nihilism, ± equivocation
and the Romantic ethos, ±±, ±, ° the art of, “·
and the Romantic poet,  Eros
the meaning of, ±µ, ° the sovereignty of, ±
eroticism
sentimental, ·“·
Calvinism,
and Cain, ±
and Paradise Lost, ± false consciousness, 
¬gura(e), ±, , ±°, ±, ±µ, ±
cant
and contemporary ideologues, “µ°
and deception, , “ generalizations
and hypocrisy, , · and idiocy, 
close reading
as critical method, ± hermeneutics, ±
contradiction hero
forms of, ±· Byronic, °, µ, , , ± “
and hypocrisy,  and Gothic villains, ·
as asymmetry, ±° and ideological structures, ·“
and Manfred, 
criticism
biographical, ±,  and “Ode to Napoleon Bonaparte,”
cultural,  
dialectical, ±, ° in The Giaour, µ“
historical, ±± “±, ±, , ± “ historicism, ±, ·
textual, ± hypocrisy,
cultural studies, ,  and confession, °±


°
°·
Subject index
and disingenuousness, ± pragmatism, ±°, µ
and sentiment,  Prometheus
as cultivated mode, , µ, , as humanitarian, 
±±µ publication
and literary meaning, ··“·
of the Romantic imagination,
±µ·“±µ
realism
ideology, , ±“± and poetic imitation, ±µ
and Romanticism, ±±, , ± referentiality
as false consciousness, ± problem of, °µ
repudiation of, °
imagination
and self-knowledge, ± re¬‚ection
and spots of time, ±° Hegelian/Marxist, ±
as a dialogic form, ° revolution
as post-Heisenbergian,  digital, 
Romantic ideas of,  rhetoric
and displacement, ±±·
irony
Byronic, ±±,  as authority, 
Romantic, ±, ±±,  as traps, µn
romantic irony, ±°±, ±
logic Romanticism
in contrast to aesthetics,  and lyric self-expression, ±, ±, ±±,
±°“±±
lyric
and Romanticism, ±±, ±° and periodization, ±·µ, , ·“, ,
and textual pleasure, ±µ , ±
and the history of ideas, µ·

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