- The International Byron Societies 2018–2019
- The Byron Society
The year 2018 was an excellent and unusually diverse year for the Byron Society, with concerts, conferences, dinners, book launches, and a particularly brilliant array of talks.
We started off the year with a bang, with a two-day symposium mapping out the range and richness of Byron’s connectivity, exploring what other poets meant to Byron, and what he meant to those who came after. For those who missed this joint event, with All Souls College, a book will be coming out shortly based on the conference papers. This event really set the tone for the year, and was followed by another two conferences which further showcased the scope of Byron’s poetic genius. In May, many of us enjoyed the 13th International Student Byron Conference in Messolonghi, arranged by the marvellous and indefatigable Rosa Florou, which included a day-trip and dinner sponsored by the Society. July saw many of us in the magnificent environs of Ravenna for the 45th International Byron Conference (which also receives a grant from the Society), a site of almost unrivalled interest for so many Byronists and one many of our members were keen to visit.
The Byron Society also sponsored a number of non-academic events in 2018, including two brilliant concerts. The first of these was a lunchtime performance during the St Marylebone Parish Church Festival, celebrating Byron’s Grand Tour across Europe, with readings and songs. The second event, in October, was a charity concert to raise funds for prostate cancer research. This dramatised concert of Byron’s life was narrated by the award-winning Simon Russel Beale, accompanied by the dashing Rob Heapp as Lord Byron, with musical performances by world-class pianist Dina Duisen. It was a truly exceptional event and we were thrilled to be involved.
We were similarly lucky with the excellent range of lectures over 2018, including Stephen Minta’s wide-ranging discussion of Byron’s engagement with the mal du siècle, Christine Kenyon Jones’s exploration of entail laws in Byron and Austen, poignantly inflected by our surroundings at Newstead, and Phillip Shaw’s talk on the Romantics and sacred founts at Keats House. While this talk did not, perhaps, include much on Byron—bar the opening disclaimer that it in fact contained nothing on Byron—last year’s annual collaborative event with Keats House proved so popular we’ve decided to hold two this year.
We were particularly fortunate to have a number of overseas speakers visit us in 2018, starting with Innes Merabishvili who came from Georgia to give a televised lecture on Byron and the mysticism of numbers. Later in the year, our Public Lecture at Senate House was enlivened by Peter Graham’s witty comparison of subversive political commentary in Byron’s poems and rapper Eminem’s music videos. In November, we had another [End Page 89] guest from the USA, Peter Francev, whose talk on Byron and the sublime was an unusually boisterous affair with a whole class of sixth formers attending. They represent part of our new initiative of school engagement, with special memberships and talks for schools. Another new development in 2018 was the launch of our blog, All Things Byron, which offers a site to discuss and explore the multivalent nature of Byron’s continuing impact on so many. Contributions include poems inspired by his life and new musical scores written for his poems, together with more academically-oriented posts and a special 2019 collection focusing on Don Juan.
And what would a Byron Society year be without the annual Christmas Lunch. This time, as we were once again happily ensconced in the East India Club, we were treated to a fabulous talk by David McClay on his new book offering a collection of the bizarre and unbelievable letters John Murray Publishers have received over the years. Now 2019 is already well underway, with talks from Karen Caines revealing the awful truth of Byron’s slipshod grasp of basic Greek and Latin, and Tom Lockwood’s interesting (and slightly risqué) discussion of Byron and the dashingly dissipate Earl of...