chapter  56
11 Pages

Swinburne’s defence of Byron

[1866] 1875

Algernon Charles Swinburne wrote this critique as a preface to his Selection from the Works of Lord Byron. The most delicate and thoughtful of English critics has charged the present generation of Englishmen with forgetfulness of Byron. The change began in Byron when he first found out his comic power, and rose at once beyond sight or shot of any rival. His early satires are wholly devoid of humour, wit, or grace; the verse of Beppo, bright and soft and fluent, is full at once of all. A man less irritable and less powerful than Byron might be forgiven for any reprisals; and the excellence of his verses justifies their injustice. Rigid criticism would say that the title of Byron's masterpiece was properly a misnomer: which is no great matter after all, since the new Juan can never be confounded with the old.