The Bengali literary reception of Lord Byron in the nineteenth century is characterised by opposing tendencies—fascination with his poetic corpus and personal heroics on the one hand and indignation at his amoral and nihilistic stance on the other. Byron's libertinism and melancholy are censoriously registered in several Bengali essays in the late nineteenth century, but a sizeable body of Bengali poetry produced around the same time seeks to appropriate Byron through quotation and adaptation. Byron's celebrated cosmopolitanism as well as his satire does not figure conspicuously on the agenda for his Bengali appropriations, because his precedents are deployed predominantly for imagining a nation. Poets such as Hemchandra Bandyopadhyay and Nabinchandra Sen re-work the Byronic text into a lament for a lost national (specifically Hindu) glory. At the same time, Biharilal Chakraborty and Akshaychandra Sarkar echo Byron's meditation on Nature but divest it of his characteristic malaise or misanthropy. The poetic appropriations of Byron in Bengali, this essay argues, presuppose a public morality and political function, and hence consciously eschew Byron's irony and self-dramatisation.


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pp. 49-61
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