- The Byron Society
The year 2020 was a difficult year for many of us, with a seemingly endless barrage of bad news from every corner of the world (and the cancellation of all our favourite Byron conferences)!
However, before everything imploded, we were lucky enough to have four excellent events. The year kicked off with a brilliant lecture by Dr Tess Somervell on Byron and Wordsworth and their peculiarly antagonistic yet admiring interactions – fittingly held on Byron’s birthday. This talk was followed by our second Annual Scotland Lecture, held this time jointly with the Centre for the History of the Book in Edinburgh. Dr Daniel Cook gave a wide-ranging and thought-provoking talk on the tricky question of Byron’s Anglo-Scottish identity, and the way in which later poets responded to this complex national identity. Returning to London, we were treated to a lecture by Professor Jason Whittaker on William Blake’s response to Byron’s highly controversial poem Cain: A Mystery, in which the older poet compared Byron to the prophet Elijah and admired the younger poet’s rebellious spirit. In March, Sir Drummond Bone gave our public lecture at Keats House, in which he offered an engaging investigation of Byron and Keats’ views of poetry and poetic identity.
Unfortunately, this marked the end of our events for 2020, as the pandemic resulted in lockdowns around the world. However, the Byron Society continued to be active. In particular, we were thrilled to receive an unprecedented volume of excellent applications for our 2020 PhD Bursary. The main award was given to Edwina Watson to help support her PhD on how Byron conceived of the purposes of poetry and the poetic vocation, with a particular focus on questions of poetic form, allusion, and influence. In recognition of the difficulties students faced during 2020, we decided to award a second, smaller bursary. This was granted to Francesco Marconi, for his PhD research into Promethean forms of grief in Byron’s works. We also held our first online AGM, and – amazingly enough – it went off remarkably well, with nary a hitch!
Happily, though physical meetings still remain something of a distant promise during the first half of 2021, and the major Byron conferences have been cancelled or gone virtual, the Byron world has certainly embraced the possibilities offered by online events. In another first for the Society, we hosted our first online lecture in January, with our own members, Dr Christine Kenyon Jones and Geoffrey Bond, offering a wonderful overview of the myriad of Byronic artefacts which proliferated during the poet’s life and following his death – an enticing range of memorabilia which I am sure will have many of us frantically eyeballing every auction listing in the coming months. This highly [End Page 99] successful event, with guests from around the globe, was followed by an online lecture from last year’s PhD Bursary recipient, Lee Livingstone. This detailed exploration of Byron’s (occasionally less-than-flattering) responses to female authors was followed by a particularly stimulating Q&A session.
The remainder of the year’s events are equally exciting, with a combination of online and physical talks and public lectures, a concert, conferences, and a book launch coming up. Please visit our website (www.thebyronsociety.com/events) for more details of our events and other initiatives.
- Italian Byron Society
At the beginning of the year (15–16 January), in Ca’ Bernardo, Venice, we held the second edition of what we had hoped would become a regular annual event, the mini-conference ‘Byron Now’. As in the previous year no specific theme had been indicated; participants were simply invited to give papers on their current Byron-related research. A session was devoted to a round-table discussion by all participants of a specific poem; in 2019 we had chosen the ‘Ode to Venice’; this year (the seventh centenary of the death of Dante) the choice fell on The Prophecy of Dante. The formula had proved a successful one in 2019, and proved equally profitable this year, even if the broad range of subjects treated does not lend itself to easy summary...