Email this review


The first twenty or so years of the nineteenth century gave poets an unparalleled independence and mystique, especially in England where first Byron, and then Shelley, were able to command, however much they set tongues wagging, that kind of fame and adulation which only Hollywood in its heyday would ever duplicate. The two poets, of course, could not be more different: lusty Byron with his Weltschmerz and debaucheries, ethereal Shelley and his Platonic hymns. Still, they were both renegade aristocrats, free souls, geniuses. And the friendship they shared in self-imposed exile abroad, primarily in Italy, was, according to John Buxton, ""of more significance than any other relationship of their lives, both for the development of their personal qualities and for the expression of these in their poetry."" One wonders if this is true, however, considering Byron's many loves and the excessive ties between Shelley and his wife. Certainly Buxton puts up an interesting, well documented case, even including anecdotes and statements by the principals which could easily be taken to controvert the purpose of the book. Buxton's sympathies lie essentially with Shelley, and though the latter was the younger poet, it seems he was more intellectually solvent, and both his character and idealism influenced whatever philosophical thought is to be found in Byron's work. As for Byron's complementary influence, this is rather vaguely outlined, and tends to vitiate the impact of Buxton's double focus.

Pub Date: Oct. 30th, 1968
Publisher: Harcourt, Brace & World