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Byron & politics: ‘born for opposition’
Home|Special Collections Exhibitions|Byron & politics: ‘born for opposition’|Napoleon: Emperor, expectation & exile|25. Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage. Canto the third. London: John Murray, 1816 

25. Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage. Canto the third. London: John Murray, 1816

KCL Rare Books Collection PR 4372.F2

At the end of August 1816 the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley bade farewell to Byron at Geneva and transported a fair copy, written out by Claire Clairmont, of Canto III of Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage back to England to John Murray. On 12 September Murray reported to Byron that William Gifford had praised it as ‘the most splendid original & interesting … the most finished’ of his writings.

The poem was published on 18 November 1816 and Byron received news of its publication in January 1817. In various letters, however, he expressed concerns about any editorial changes. For example on 13 January 1817 he wrote to Augusta Leigh: ‘If Murray has mutilated the MS. with his Toryism, or his notions about family considerations I shall not pardon him & am sure to know it sooner or later & to let him know it also.’

Commenting on the Waterloo stanzas in the Quarterly Review 16, pages 191-4, Walter Scott lamented:

That Lord Byron’s sentiments do not correspond with ours is obvious, and we are sorry for both our sakes … we cannot trace in Lord Byron’s writings any systematic attachment to a particular creed of politics, and he appears to us to seize the subjects of public interest upon the side in which they happen to present themselves for the moment, with this qualification, that he usually paints them on the shaded aspect, perhaps that their tints may harmonize with the sombre colours of his landscape.

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