First-ever public display of Byron's 'Don Juan'
The manuscript of one of the greatest poems of the 19th century — Lord Byron's 'Don Juan' — will go on display at the National Library of Scotland from next Thursday (18 April) to mark the 200th anniversary of its publication.
'Don Juan' is widely regarded as Byron's masterpiece and led Sir Walter Scott to make comparisons with Shakespeare. A long poem divided into sections known as cantos, it was unfinished at the time of his death in 1824.
Often lauded as the first-ever 'celebrity', Byron's private life was already attracting scandal and gossip at the time of writing the first cantos of 'Don Juan'. His account of the adventures of Don Juan is famous for its exotic locations, adventure, romance, wit and dazzling language. As was Byron's mischievous wont, he also mocked religions and ridiculed fellow poets and public figures.
For the first time, people will have the opportunity to view the working manuscripts of 'Don Juan' on display — specifically cantos I, II and V — which show changes and additions made by the poet, giving an insight into his creative process.
National Librarian John Scally said:
'Lord Byron was at the height of his powers when he penned 'Don Juan'. The epic poem was before its time and he knew it. It was deliberately provocative, but his intent was to expose the hypocrisies of British society as much as it was to shock readers with depictions of war, slave markets, harems, and perhaps most famously, the protagonist's litany of love affairs.
We have been collecting Byron's work for the past 30 or 40 years. The Byron papers in the National Library are a rich and unique research resource and we are proud to be one of the leading centres for the study of Byron's life and work. It is a special moment to share these manuscripts, in all their raw and immediate detail, with the public.'
The display — which includes an array of material from the Library's collections relating to Byron, including from the John Murray Archive — explores the controversy surrounding its publication and the reactions of its readers. It runs from Thursday 18 April until Saturday 27 July at the National Library of Scotland, George IV Bridge, Edinburgh.
12 April 2019