Spanish History and Scenery in Lord Byron’s Poems and Letters (pp. 109-120)
University of Athens
Lord Byron’s association with the Iberian Peninsula, both in historical and literary terms, plays a pivotal role in his early ideological development and subsequent poetical composition. The renowned romantic poet departed on the Grand Tour in Levante in the years 1809 – 1811, in the fashion of many contemporary young English aristocrats. Among the many countries toured in the Mediterranean beside his trusted companion John Cam Hobhouse were those of the Iberian Peninsula, Spain, Portugal, and Gibraltar. The reflections and impressions of the scenery of these southern countries were engraved into his memory and imagination and served as vital poetic material for his great compositions; most importantly the first Canto of Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, the first part of Don Juan and The Age of Bronze.
Therefore, his works are an essential source of anglophone literature for Spain and Portugal in the early 19th century. Moreover, as a member of the House of Lords and the liberal Whig faction, Byron, in his letters, often recorded his thoughts on issues related to the Iberian countries, especially on the War of the Peninsula, the Cintra Congress and the liberal uprising of the Spaniards in the ‘Trienio Liberal’.
In this note, we will examine Byron’s impressions and commentary on the Iberian countries, as reflected in his Letters during his voyage and later. Additionally, we will examine specific passages from Childe Harold I, Don Juan I-II, and The Age of Bronze. These poems constitute, respectively, a literary narrative of his Grand Tour trip from Lisbon to Andalusia at the commencement of the Peninsular War; a rather humoristic fantasy of the social morals of Spain during the early 18th century and a fierce political criticism in support of the liberal Spaniards and their uprising during the reign of Ferdinand VII (1820-1823). Centring on the latter, we will discuss on Byron’s nationalism, and we will prove that his innate Romanticism profoundly influenced his sentiments on the cause of the Spaniards.
Keywords: Peninsula War; Lord Byron; Don Juan; Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage; The Age of Bronze; Trienio Liberal
Ioannes P. Chounts is a Senior Policy Adviser to M.P. in the Hellenic Parliament. He holds a B.A. in Literature and Classics and an M.A. in Political Analysis. He is currently following a Master in Philosophy at the University of Athens. He is also a Board Member of the Society of Greek Philologists (a member of the F.I.E.C.) and a member of the Byron Society and the British Association for Romantic Studies. His main research interests focus on Romanticism and the ‘long eighteenth century’ political thought and parliamentary history.
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