Don Juan is probably Lord Byron’s most well-known work, and to do him due justice I think it is a work impossible to replicate in the current times. This stems from two facts, Lord Byron was a consummate poet. At 717 pages, this work is an epic poem of staggering proportions, and at times a struggle to read. It requires both concentration and commitment on behalf of both the reader, and of course the poet, but this wasn’t what drew me in.
What I noted after reading the first two cantos was the abrupt change in tone and mood on behalf of Lord Byron. The first two canto’s (over 100 pages each) were focused on Don Juan, a fast-moving tale, which kept me hooked, but the third canto signified an extreme change. Curious I goggled (as you do) to find out what had happened, and discovered that the original publisher refused to continue after canto 2, stating the material was immoral. Apparently this caused great offense, and Lord Byron was obligated to persuade another publisher to continue with his works and, his subsequent disgruntlement was woven into the remaining canto’s.
So, what I found was Don Juan’s tale began to take second fiddle to Lord Byron’s affront, for the purpose of each stanza now veered significantly. They were either a justification for his work, a personal attack on those who had judged it immoral work, or a slur on his rivals.
What I found so interesting about this was it provided a commentary on the politics of Lord Byron’s time, for it was apparent that he was censured quite harshly, and it impacted not only on him personally, but also on his standing in society.
Needless to say, once he veered off on this tangent, Don Juan’s tale suffered, until the last few Cantos were little more than filling for Lord Byron’s diatribe.
So, would I recommend this book? Well, in truth no. This is a work that you have to want to read, it is enjoyable in parts, but after the first two cantos you really have to immerse yourself in Lord Byron’s mindset, and that is an ordeal.
There is no doubt that he was a remarkably talented poet, but he was also angst ridden, arrogant and obnoxious, but as they say talent is hard to hide and he was certainly that.