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Full Online Book HomePoemsEnglish Bards, And Scotch Reviewers - Introduction
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English Bards, And Scotch Reviewers - Introduction Post by :tradermann455 Category :Poems Author :Lord Byron Date :July 2011 Read :2801

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English Bards, And Scotch Reviewers - Introduction

Introduction


The article upon 'Hours of Idleness' "which Lord Brougham ... after
denying it for thirty years, confessed that he had written" ('Notes from
a Diary', by Sir M. E. Grant Duff, 1897, ii. 189), was published in the
'Edinburgh Review' of January, 1808. 'English Bards, and Scotch
Reviewers' did not appear till March, 1809. The article gave the
opportunity for the publication of the satire, but only in part provoked
its composition. Years later, Byron had not forgotten its effect on his
mind. On April 26, 1821, he wrote to Shelley: "I recollect the effect on
me of the Edinburgh on my first poem: it was rage and resistance and
redress: but not despondency nor despair." And on the same date to
Murray: "I know by experience that a savage review is hemlock to a
sucking author; and the one on me (which produced the 'English Bards',
etc.) knocked me down, but I got up again," etc. It must, however, be
remembered that Byron had his weapons ready for an attack before he used
them in defence. In a letter to Miss Pigot, dated October 26, 1807, he
says that "he has written one poem of 380 lines to be published in a few
weeks with notes. The poem ... is a Satire." It was entitled 'British
Bards', and finally numbered 520 lines. With a view to publication, or
for his own convenience, it was put up in type and printed in quarto
sheets. A single copy, which he kept for corrections and additions, was
preserved by Dallas, and is now in the British Museum. After the review
appeared, he enlarged and recast the 'British Bards', and in March,
1809, the Satire was published anonymously. Byron was at no pains to
conceal the authorship of 'English Bards, and Scotch Reviewers', and,
before starting on his Pilgrimage, he had prepared a second and enlarged
edition, which came out in October, 1809, with his name prefixed. Two
more editions were called for in his absence, and on his return he
revised and printed a fifth, when he suddenly resolved to suppress the
work. On his homeward voyage he expressed, in a letter to Dallas, June
28, 1811, his regret at having written the Satire. A year later he
became intimate, among others, with Lord and Lady Holland, whom he had
assailed on the supposition that they were the instigators of the
article in the 'Edinburgh Review', and on being told by Rogers that they
wished the Satire to be withdrawn, he gave orders to his publisher,
Cawthorn, to burn the whole impression. A few copies escaped the flames.
One of two copies retained by Dallas, which afterwards belonged to
Murray, and is now in his grandson's possession, was the foundation of
the text of 1831, and of all subsequent issues. Another copy which
belonged to Dallas is retained in the British Museum.

Towards the close of the last century there had been an outburst of
satirical poems, written in the style of the 'Dunciad' and its offspring
the 'Rosciad', Of these, Gifford's 'Baviad' and 'Maviad' (1794-5), and
T. J. Mathias' 'Pursuits of Literature' (1794-7), were the direct
progenitors of 'English Bards, and Scotch Reviewers', The 'Rolliad'
(1794), the 'Children of Apollo' (circ. 1794), Canning's 'New Morality'
(1798), and Wolcot's coarse but virile lampoons, must also be reckoned
among Byron's earlier models. The ministry of "All the Talents" gave
rise to a fresh batch of political 'jeux d'esprits', and in 1807, when
Byron was still at Cambridge, the air was full of these ephemera. To
name only a few, 'All the Talents', by Polypus (Eaton Stannard Barrett),
was answered by 'All the Blocks, an antidote to All the Talents', by
Flagellum (W. H. Ireland); 'Elijah's Mantle, a tribute to the memory of
the R. H. William Pitt', by James Sayer, the caricaturist, provoked
'Melville's Mantle, being a Parody on ... Elijah's Mantle'. 'The
Simpliciad, A Satirico-Didactic Poem', and Lady Anne Hamilton's 'Epics
of the Ton', are also of the same period. One and all have perished, but
Byron read them, and in a greater or less degree they supplied the
impulse to write in the fashion of the day.

'British Bards' would have lived, but, unquestionably, the spur of the
article, a year's delay, and, above all, the advice and criticism of his
friend Hodgson, who was at work on his 'Gentle Alterative for the
Reviewers', 1809 (for further details, see vol. i., 'Letters', Letter
102, 'note' 1), produced the brilliant success of the enlarged satire.
'English Bards, and Scotch Reviewers' was recognized at once as a work
of genius. It has intercepted the popularity of its great predecessors,
who are often quoted, but seldom read. It is still a popular poem, and
appeals with fresh delight to readers who know the names of many of the
"bards" only because Byron mentions them, and count others whom he
ridicules among the greatest poets of the century.

Content of Introduction (Lord Byron's poem: English Bards, and Scotch Reviewers)

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