12th Street’s fiction editor, Adane Byron, has a talk with Lord Byron, spinner of fictitious history.
Sometime before 1819 Writer Lord Byron began work on his lengthy poem, Don Juan. It was an “epic satire,” as he called it, of the popular fable of Don Juan: the self-proclaimed gigolo. In the midst of writing his seventeenth canto—having already accomplished 16,000 lines of verse—Byron died in 1824. Still he’d claimed he hadn’t been anywhere near finished with the poem.
Adane Byron: How are you doing today?
Lord Byron: Wonderful. I left two women on my cloud, along with their husbands. I am giving up four bodies of pleasure for this interview.
AB: Nice to know. So, tell me why you wrote, Don Juan.
LB: I was writing my life.
AB: You were hiding in the beds of the women you slept with, while their husbands looked for you?
LB: There were also times when I hid from the wives’ husbands.
AB: And what does that say about you?
LB: I am a lover… a lover of love. I am keen on sharing my love. There was never a soul who could resist my charm and dashing good looks.
AB: But really, why did you write Don Juan?
LB: It was a giggle; a laugh; a satire of the times, really. It was a bit of freedom from all the preposterous modesty which was happening. I wanted to take Don Juan across the seas.
AB: Is that why he travels all across Europe on these adventures?
LB: Yes. I wanted Don Juan to expose the different ridicules of the societies in those countries.
AB: It is written so matter of fact-ly, especially as Don Juan goes further on his travels.
LB: Fact-ly? Did you invent this word?
AB: Yeah, I think I may have.
LB: Good on you! This is the making of a great writer: to create. And yes, I displayed Don Juan gradually as gáté and blasé as he grew older, which is only natural in a young man.
AB: Many critics say your Don Juan used his nobility, intellectual superiority, and wickedness as one—that there was no separation of these traits.
LB: As humans we merge the qualities we are given, whether they are bad or good. Don Juan embraces every aspect of the human life… all of its varieties. It would be silly of me to say that I did not know what I was doing when I wrote it. When a canto of Don Juan was released I welcomed the critics’ responses. The more cruel critiques just presented a challenge to me.
AB: What do you mean?
LB: They only pushed me to make Don Juan as lewd as possible. Well, perhaps not lewd, but more real as a human. As I said, I wanted this book to be life and all its varieties.
AB: You were a rebel, huh?
LB: I was not being a rebel. I was being myself. Everyone spoke of me—the more crude critics: negatively; my enthusiasts—well my enthusiasts… they succumbed to my allurement.
AB: How did that make you feel?
LB: I was gifted with an immense amount of confidence. That confidence is in my work. The negative and the positive responses were the wood that made my fire rise.
LB: Is it? Don’t you think having confidence makes you invincible?
AB: I don’t know about invincible… everyone dies.
LB: But in the sense that we live on past our tangible selves to become legend. Listen, if you are not confident in your work, it will be forgotten, and so will you. You must believe in it.
AB: Good advice. I mean you’re pretty confident even with that bum leg of yours.
LB: This foot… I have never had much confidence in it. It was a birth defect and they tried for years to correct it. For years I loathed it. By the time I was a young man, I was through with attempts at fixing it. I had to accept my physical defect. I believe that is when the confidence in my strength came about. I first pretended to be right with my limp, with an almost overt confidence. Eventually this limp gave me a sort of—how do you say it in your time now—”swag”?
AB: [laughs] Yes: swag.
LB: Yes. The limp gave me a swag which I used to my benefit. I gained much attention from my “swag,” and that attention fed my ego.
AB: I see. Okay, one last question. How would you describe yourself?
LB: That is a difficult one. I often think that one should answer such a question with the good side of themselves. But I am such a strange menagerie of good and evil that it would be difficult to describe myself.
AB: Well isn’t that just a Byronic answer. Thanks again for the time.
LB: The pleasure is only mine. So where are you off to now? Maybe you fancy having a sherry with an old ghost?