For readers lacking the funds or dedication to buy or peruse Marchand's definitive 12-volume edition of Byron's letters and journals, this handy anthology serves up some marvelous prose by one of the live wires of English literature. Byron's letters are irresistible: vivid, unpremeditated, scintillating bursts of energy and wit; candid, cordial, self-mocking; the rhythm and punctuation as protean, headlong, and cavalier as the man himself. ""As to Don Juan,"" writes Byron to Douglas Kinnaird, ""confess--confess--you dog--and be candid . . . it may be bawdy--but is it not good English?--it may be profligate--but is it not life, is it not the thing?-Could any man have written it--who has not lived in the world?--and tooled in a post-chaise? in a hackney coach? in a Gondola? Against a wall? in a court carriage? in a vis a vis?--on a table?--and under it?"" Marchand prints some 136 complete letters (the Everyman's Library one-volume edition has 232, but they're expurgated), along with journal excerpts, useful biographical summaries of Byron and his correspondents, and (as if to make up for all the juicy material that had to be cut) a brief collection of ""memorable passages"" from other letters. Byronians, inevitably, will quarrel with Marchand over his omissions. We don't get Byron's desperate note of Aug. 7, 1811 to Scrope Davies on the death of his mother and the drowning of his friend Charles Skinner Matthews; nor the letter of Sept. 17, 1816 to his half-sister Augusta (""What a fool was I to marry--and you not very wise--my dear--""); nor others of like interest. These are deficiencies, but they're easily remedied with Marchand's complete Byron. A generous helping from a splendid feast.