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In this paper I intend to trace, in close detail, the language of several of the stanzas of Canto The Second of Byron's Don Juan (1819-1824) and relate them to the wider context of the canto and see how that illustrates some of the factors of Byron's work and opinions…
The version of the poem used here is an online annotated edition based upon the 1904, 1957 and 1958 reprints1 and although not a definitive scholarly edition is clear and accessible for close reading and critical analysis. Byron's letters are cited from Byron: A Self-Portrait in His Own Words, edited by Peter Quennell2, and are from 1798 to 1824 and so cover the period when Byron was working on Don Juan up to the time of its publication. Quennell begins by offering us, as biographer and editor, a useful warning when dealing with Byron's work and character:
Byron is the most alluring of themes, and although there is no great man who appears at first sight to reveal himself more readily, his character, if we study him closely enough and follow him hard enough, often seems, as our knowledge increases, to be among the most elusive.3
Therefore, close reading of a long poem like Don Juan will be, at times, both revealing and frustrating, but is as good a means as any to attempt to investigate the character of the poet, his philosophies and passions. The choice of Canto the Second is meant to indicate Byron's variety in the tone and momentum in this work. Canto the First is about Don Juan's childhood and youth and how he first experiences passion, love and sex. ...
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