In the recent Cambridge Introduction to Byron, Richard Lansdown notes that for Byron ‘1812 was a busy year’. This is litotes, as this special issue of The Byron Journal on the subject of ‘Byron in 1812’ will I hope demonstrate. The year 1812 was indeed a hugely significant one for Byron, and continues to be so for those who study his life and work, for many different reasons. These include the overnight fame which came with the publication of Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage Cantos I and II, his ‘maiden speech’ in the House of Lords, a new working relationship with a publisher called John Murray, new associations with Lady Caroline Lamb, Lord Holland and the Melbournes, his first involvement with Drury Lane theatre, and his first meeting with Walter Scott to list a few. Each of the essays included in the present issue tackles a different aspect of Byron’s life and work in this most crucial of years.
We begin with two essays on Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage: Bernard Beatty assesses the reasons for the poem’s success with its first readers, while Michael O’Neill explores the processes of ‘bidding farewell to what comes glimmering back’ embedded in the poem’s structure. Timothy Webb argues for the importance of the annotations and other ‘extraneous’ materials published in the first edition, usually underappreciated by modern editors, arguing that they emphasise Byron’s philhellenism. Moving away from Childe Harold, Michael Simpson sees Byron’s vision of a new British drama in The Curse of Minerva, the Address, Spoken at the Opening of Drury-lane and the monody on the death of Sheridan as a response to the actions of Lord Elgin. Finally, Mary O’Connell examines Byron’s relationship with Murray from the ‘annus mirabilis’ of 1812 until they parted company in 1822.
As usual the journal also contains a series of conference reports, including that of the International Conference at King’s College London in 2013, a section of Book Reviews and reports from some of the international societies. [End Page v]