Actually, 19th century men and women weren’t so different from contemporary men and women at all! Just as there were brooding but sexy bad boys, there were girls who couldn’t help falling for them. Who, even though they knew the dangers, sought out bad boys just because they were so interesting. Here’s a bit from Jane Eyre, all quotes from Blanche Ingram:
“It is my opinion, the fiddler David must have been an insipid sort of a fellow; I like black Bothwell better: to my mind a man is nothing without a spice of the devil in him; and history may say what it will of James Hepburn, but I have a notion he was just the sort of wild, fierce, bandit hero whom I could have consented to gift with my hand.” […]
“Oh, I am so sick of the young men of the present day!”exclaimed she, rattling away at [the piano]. “Poor, puny things, not fit to stir a step beyond papa’s park gates, nor to go even so far without mamma’s permission and guardianship!” […]
“Here then is a Corsair-song. Know that I dote on Corsairs, and for that reason, sing it con spirito”
The footnote accompanying this says that the fashionable taste for Corsairs, Italian bandits, highwaymen, and Levantine pirates lasted a long time. Already in 1818 Jane Austen described the attraction of the bad boy Captain Benwick, and in 1867 Trollope still wrote about girls complaining of their boring and tame lovers in The Last Chronicles. (And I think you can even see it now, for example in the brilliant TV series Lost in Austen, where Mr. Darcy charms a modern-day girl.)
Highwaymen especially held a certain charm, as this rather breathtaking and romantic poem about highwaymen shows: The Highwayman (1913) by Alfred Noyes. If you prefer that sung you can find it here or have it recited to you by a nervous redhead you can click here. I think that proves that highwaymen, Corsairs, pirates and bandits have held a certain charm to people ever since Byron put his poems down to paper.
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I am not a big fan of the poetry of John Keats (my professor says “of course, noone likes Keats” but that might be an overstatement) but his lifestory is so beautiful and sad and romantic that I wanted to share it here.
John Keats was an English poet who lived from 1795 to 1821, he died at 26 leaving an impressive amount of high-quality poetry. Before he was 15, his mother, father, and grandfather had died. When his grandmother died, he was entrusted with the care of his brother Tom, who suffered from tuberculosis, the same illness that had killed his mother. Keats left for a journey through Scotland and Ireland, but the physical exhaustion and bad, wet weather proved to be bad for his health. He had to return early, suffering from a sore throath, and what were probably the first signs of tuberculosis. When he returned, he found his brother Tom’s condition had deteriorated, and he died in 1818.
Keats moved house and fell in love with his neighbor’s daughter, the eighteen-year old Fanny Brawne. It was a very unhappy affair: while the couple did get engaged, they knew they would probably never marry because Keats was very poor (the little money he made he send to his other brother in America, who was almost bankrupt due to an unwise investment) and his health was quickly worsening.
In 1820 he was invited to spend some time in Italy by Percy Bysshe Shelley, but he writes back that he might not be able to visit, because he thinks he might die before that time. Finally he did move to Italy, where he died in 1821.
Keats was a very sensitive person, and it is said that his health was influenced by bad reviews on his poetry, which were above all motivated by politics, not by the poetry’s quality. Shelley called Keats “a pale flower” and Byron, who disliked him, said he was “snuffed out by an article.” Keats’ death later inspired Shelley to write the poem Adonais, and when Shelley’s drowned body was found (a year after Keats’ death) it had an open book of Keats’ works upon it.
Keats’ letter to Shelley can be read here.
(Sources: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keats, the Norton Anthology of English literature, Vol II, 8th Edition.)
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Posted in 19th century, literature, movies, people, places to go, victorian, tagged 19th century, bbc, byron, lord byron, poetry, shelley, victorian on January 6, 2008|
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This post is the second part of Byron sources, part one is located here
The other day I attended a theatre show, where the tv program where a dateable girl has to pick one of three bachelors was played. The girl was Richardson’s Pamela, and her choice of men were Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Oscar Wilde (he left early because he was gay.) In the end, Pamela was dragged off stage by Lord Byron, who cackled.
The BBC serie about Byron was by far the most interesting thing I ever saw. If you know BBC series, you know they’re not shy about the, er, less pretty facts of someone’s life, so this serie might not be one you want to show to young children. (Although it’s not very explicit.) The best thing I think is, because it’s so beautiful and interesting, you remember a lot
and can appear as a smart person to your peers because you know all kinds of facts about Byron, just by watching a movie. It seems very honest in its representation of Byron’s life.
My only remark would be: show us a little bit more Shelley!
Here are some Byron icons from the BBC series, if you feel Byron should represent you on various messageboards across the net.
You can send your child to Byron Bible Camp. I was very surprised for a minute, until I realised it’s probably named after a different Byron.
You can visit Byron’s home, which is very beautiful.
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