glbtq: an encyclopedia of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender & queer culture
home
arts
literature
social sciences
special features
discussion
about glbtq
   search

 
   Encyclopedia
   Discussion
 
 

   member name
  
   password
  
 
   
   Forgot Your Password?  
   
Not a Member Yet?  
   
JOIN TODAY. IT'S FREE!

 
  Advertising Opportunities
  Permissions & Licensing
  Terms of Service
  Privacy Policy
  Copyright

 

 

 

 

 
literature

Alpha Index:  A-B  C-F  G-K  L-Q  R-S  T-Z

Subjects:  A-B  C-E  F-L  M-Z

     
Byron, George Gordon, Lord (1788-1824)  
 
page: 1  2  3  4  

As we have indicated, it is unlikely Byron gave any clear hints about his sexual orientation in this work. However, within a decade of his death, some as yet unidentified poet wrote a pseudo-autobiography that was surprisingly accurate on Byron's homosexual affairs. This mysterious document was a poem in rhymed couplets that bore the title Don Leon, A Poem by Lord Byron, Author of Childe Harold, Don Juan &c., &c., And Forming Part of the Private Journal of His Lordship, Supposed to have been Entirely Destroyed by Thos. Moore.

Though not by Byron, Don Leon can hardly be called an attempt at forgery: No one had imagined Byron's memoirs were in verse instead of prose, and the poem made allusions to many incidents that any contemporary reader would immediately have recognized as taking place after Byron's death.

Sponsor Message.

Don Leon is of interest to Byron studies because it gives accurate details of Byron's love for John Edleston (without the author's realizing, however, that the Thyrza elegies mourned him) and of his consummated affair in Greece with Nicolo Giraud, a part of Byron's life on which the Leon poet seems especially well informed. It also presents, in a sensitive and insightful fashion, a psychological portrayal of the adolescent Byron's awakening awareness of his interest in other boys.

Nevertheless, the main impetus behind the poem and its real raison d'être was to protest the continued hanging of homosexuals in England in the years following Byron's death. Such executions had been common during Byron's lifetime, averaging about two a year. But in 1832, despite passage of the Reform Bill and the extensive law reforms introduced by the new liberal parliament, there was no change in the law that made homosexual acts capital offenses, and the statute was still enforced in its full rigor. Consequently, the poem opens with a strong protest against a sentence of death, which the notes identify as that pronounced on Captain Henry Nicholls in August 1833.

The poem describes at length several parliamentary careers ended by arrests or exile. It describes the arrest of Byron's friend William Bankes in June 1833, whose case is represented as unresolved. Since Bankes was in fact acquitted at a well-publicized trial in December of the same year, it would appear that most of the poem was written before then, though there are some references to events that took place two years later.

The fifty pages of notes refer principally to arrests between 1833 and 1859 and appear to have been repeatedly revised. We know that the poem was printed sometime before 1853 since a query about it appeared in Notes and Queries that year. However, no copies of this first edition have come to light; the earliest extant copies are from a printing by William Dugdale in 1866. In 1930, the Fortune Press reprinted Don Leon, but the edition was ordered destroyed by the British courts on the grounds that the work was obscene.

The poem is forceful satire in the style of Byron's own The Curse of Minerva, with many striking passages. It makes an impassioned and eloquent plea for law reform, despite its odd use of contemporary homophobic language. All in all, Don Leon may justly be described as one of the most remarkable documents in gay literary history to appear between the end of the classical period and the twentieth century.

Louis Crompton

  <previous page   page: 1  2  3  4    

    
 interact  
   
Contact Us
 
Join the Discussion
 
 find 
   
Related Entries
 
More Entries by this contributor
 
A Bibliography on this Topic

 
Citation Information
 
More Entries about Literature
 
 


   Related Entries
  
literature >> Overview:  Bisexual Literature

Although Western culture's reliance upon binary systems of classification and identification has meant the practical erasure of bisexuality, as such, from literary and cultural analysis, bisexual experiences appear in many literary works from ancient times to the present.

literature >> Overview:  Censorship

Governments, publishers, editors, and even gay writers themselves have censored gay content in literature from the Renaissance to the present.

literature >> Overview:  English Literature: Nineteenth Century

From its beginning, the nineteenth century in England had a purposeful homosexual literature of considerable bulk, both male and female, though it was fettered by oppression.

literature >> Overview:  English Literature: Romanticism

Since homosexuality was severely persecuted during the Romantic period, writers who treated the subject more or less positively were forced to encode it or leave it unpublished and were themselves frequently forced into exile.

literature >> Overview:  Poetry: Gay Male

The gay tradition in literature from ancient times to the present is primarily a tradition not of prose but of verse.

literature >> Overview:  Romantic Friendship: Male

Critics use the term male romantic friendship to describe strong attachments between men in works ranging from ancient epics and medieval romances to Renaissance plays, Gothic novels, westerns, and war movies.

social sciences >> Overview:  United Kingdom I: The Middle Ages through the Nineteenth Century

The United Kingdom has a rich and vibrant legacy of queer cultural expression despite a long history of severe legal sanctions against male-male sexual acts and other manifestations of sexual and gender deviance.

literature >> Beckford, William

Extremely wealthy and connected to the aristocracy, British author and connoisseur William Beckford was ostracized by English society for the last sixty years of his life because of his homosexuality.

literature >> Bentham, Jeremy

The most notable law reformer in the English-speaking world, English philosopher, jurist, economist, and political scientist Jeremy Bentham argued for a tolerant attitude toward homosexuality in a series of papers first published in full in 1985.

literature >> Catullus

The Roman poet Catullus incorporated homoerotic themes in his verse, both reflecting the passionate character of same-sex friendships and describing several of his own homosexual adventures.

arts >> Findlater, James Ogilvy, Earl of

James Ogilvy, the 7th Earl of Findlater and 4th Earl of Seafield, was an accomplished amateur landscape architect and philanthropist; after his death, scandal erupted when he was outed by his own relatives in Scotland.

social sciences >> Hadrian

The love of the second-century Roman emperor Hadrian for the beautiful youth Antinous was exceptional not because the lovers were male, but because of its intensity.

literature >> Halliburton, Richard

There has been renewed interest in the life and work of American adventurer and travel writer Richard Halliburton at least in part because of his homosexuality.

literature >> Horace

In his highly accomplished and influential poetry, Horace reflects the easy bisexuality of the Roman upper class in the first century B. C.

literature >> Petronius

Petronius' Satyricon is both the best evidence for homosexual behavior at the height of the Roman Empire and one of the most bumptious homoerotic picaresque narratives ever written.

literature >> Sappho

Admired through the ages as one of the greatest lyric poets, the ancient Greek writer Sappho is today esteemed by lesbians around the world as the archetypal lesbian and their symbolic mother.

arts >> Subjects of the Visual Arts: Harmodius and Aristogeiton

Athenian lovers Harmodius and Aristogeiton were remembered in ancient Greece as the great tyrannicides and celebrated as lovers, patriots, and martyrs.

arts >> Tchaikovsky, Pyotr Ilich

One of the greatest composers in the history of music, Pyotr Ilich Tchaikovsky inspired a cult of gay admirers who detected in his work themes of forbidden love.

literature >> Virgil

Virgil wrote approvingly of male love in many works, and his second eclogue became the most famous poem on that subject in Latin literature.

literature >> Winckelmann, Johann Joachim

The art historian Johann Joachim Winckelmann, the first German to have been publicly acknowledged as a homosexual, developed an aesthetic deeply rooted in his homosexuality.


    Bibliography
   

Byron, George Gordon, Lord. The Complete Poetical Works. J. J. McGann, ed. 7 vols. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1980-1992.

_____. Byron's Letters and Journals. L. Marchand, ed. 12 vols. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1973-1982.

Crompton, Louis. Byron and Greek Love: Homophobia in 19th-Century England. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985.

Don Leon. A Homosexual Emancipation Miscellany c. 1835-1952. New York: Arno Press, 1975. 1-107.

Knight, G. Wilson. Lord Byron's Marriage: The Evidence of Asterisks. London: Routledge and K. Paul, 1957.

Marchand, Leslie. Byron: A Biography. 3 vols. New York: Knopf, 1957.

Moore, Doris Langley. "Appendix 2: Byron's Sexual Ambivalence." Lord Byron: Accounts Rendered. London; John Murray, 1974. 437-459.

 

    Citation Information
         
    Author: Crompton, Louis  
    Entry Title: Byron, George Gordon, Lord  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
 
    Publication Date: 2002  
    Date Last Updated August 1, 2007  
    Web Address www.glbtq.com/literature/byron_gg.html  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
 
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 1995, 2002 New England Publishing Associates  
 

 

This Entry Copyright © 1995, 2002 New England Publishing Associates

www.glbtq.com is produced by glbtq, Inc., 1130 West Adams Street, Chicago, IL   60607 glbtq™ and its logo are trademarks of glbtq, Inc.
This site and its contents Copyright © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  All Rights Reserved.
Your use of this site indicates that you accept its Terms of Service.