“It may be profligate – but is it not life, and is it not the thing?
Could any man have written it – who has not lived in the world? – and tooled in a post-chaise? In a hackney coach? In a Gondola? Against a wall? In a court carriage? In a vis a vis? – on a table? – and under it?"
-Byron to his friend, Douglas Kinnaird, 1819.
Don Juan is a satiric poem by Lord Byron, based on the legend of Don Juan, which Byron reverses, portraying Juan not as a womanizer but as someone easily seduced by women.
Byron's exuberant masterpiece tells of the adventures of Don Juan, beginning with his illicit love affair at the age of sixteen with a married woman, Donna Julia.
His mother, Donna Inez, sends him away from his native Seville, but there is a shipwreck. Some of the survivors resort to eating Juan’s spaniel and his tutor!
Later, his exploits take him to Greece, where he is sold as a slave, and to Russia, where he becomes a favorite of the Empress Catherine.
Poet Percy Bysshe Shelley instantly recognized it as Byron's masterpiece.
He enthused: ‘Nothing has ever been written like it in English – nor if I may venture to prophesy, will there ever be.’
Byron lost his publisher over it. John Murray wanted him to cut some of his blasphemies – he moved too quickly in it from gay to grave. Or was its affirmation of individual freedom, rebellion and a defiance of moral regulation too much for the publisher?
When Byron left Britain for good in 1816, it was almost certainly because his homosexuality was about to be exposed—and in those reactionary times, sodomy was punishable by death. We know too that Byron's friends got together after his death and burned his memoirs—presumably because of their celebration of homosexual love.
GEORGE GORDON, (LORD BYRON), (1788-1824) the most flamboyant and notorious of the Romantics, was the most fashionable poet of his day. He created an enormously popular Romantic hero—defiant, melancholy, haunted by secret guilt—for which he seemed the model.
His masterworks include Don Juan, Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, She Walks In Beauty, Prometheus, and The Prisoner of Chillon.
He fathered Ada Lovelace, (whose work on Charles Babbage's Analytical Engine is considered a seminal text in the field of computer science),
Dead at age 36, Byron was both celebrated and criticized in life for his aristocratic excesses, including enormous debts, numerous love affairs with men as well as women, rumors of a scandalous liaison with his half-sister, and self-imposed exile.