Folios 63 and 64 of 'Don Juan' manuscript describing the character Haidée, 1818 [Library reference: MS 5000].
In 1818, Lord Byron sent his publisher John Murray a manuscript of the first 'canto' or part of his poem 'Don Juan'.
The manuscript of canto I, dated 16 September 1818, was intended to be a neat copy for the printer, but Byron annotated the pages with corrections and additions. It was sent from Venice, where Byron was living having fled England in 1816 amid scandal and gossip about his private life.
Byron's poems are distinctive for their rich descriptions, satire and playful nature. In 'Don Juan' the narrator speaks directly to his audience, relating his hero's adventures. Unlike the traditional story where Don Juan is a womaniser, Byron's innocent Juan is taught about love by the strong and passionate women he meets.
The first canto of the poem (which was published along with canto II) describes Juan's love affair with the married Donna Julia, and ends with him being sent away on a sea voyage because of the scandal. Canto II, which was sent to Murray in 1819, continued the story as Don Juan's ship is wrecked and he is washed up on a Greek island. The pages of the manuscript shown above describe Haidée, the beautiful young woman who finds Don Juan washed up on a beach. Here Byron demonstrates his talent for rich and sensuous descriptions.
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