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Library Journal Review
If Byron learned poetry from Pope and the classical poets, he learned wickedness from his father, the drunken, incestuous Mad Jack Byron, who died penniless at 36. And although there is no doubt that the poet himself sought "moral suicide," it is also true that his energies were ethereal as well as diabolicÄif he was adept at ruining the happiness of others, he was also capable of writing some of the most sublime poetry of his time and ours. With a life like his, the biographer need only stand aside, which Eisler does, for the most part; she psychologizes occasionally but unnecessarily, since Byron hid nothing in his quest to become the hero of his own life. Ultimately, that life upstaged the poetry, as Eisler (author of O'Keeffe and Stieglitz: An American Romance, LJ 4/15/91) notes toward the end of this thoroughly engaging study. Byron too died when he was only 36, and his autopsy report noted many signs of disease, including the fact that, "strangest of all, the sutures of the skull had fused together, a sign of immense age." Eisler pays ample attention to Byron's work, making this an excellent complement to Grosskurth's purely biographical Byron (LJ 4/15/97). Highly recommended.ÄDavid Kirby, Florida State Univ., Tallahassee (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
By the end of the 19th century more books and articles had been written on Byron's life than on all the other English Romantic poets combined. After a brief abatement during the hegemony of the new criticism, the flood has resumed, powered primarily by the freedom of biographers today to deal openly with Byron's spectacularly active, bisexual love life. Eisler's shrewd, lively, and well-written blockbuster focuses precisely on what was suppressed for generations. Frank, forthright, and nonpartisan, the book describes the extreme complexities of Byron's character with unusual vividness. Particularly admirable is the author's insightful account of Byron's brief and turbulent marriage, which ended in a horrendous scandal and Byron's permanent, self-imposed exile from England. Regrettably, the book is weakest in dealing with Byron the poet and dazzlingly gifted prose writer, which, after all, is why he is remembered at all. For that the student's best resource remains Leslie Marchand's great three-volume biography, Byron: A Biography (1957), or one-volume condensation, Byron: A Portrait (CH, Jun'71). Nonetheless, Eisler's beautifully printed, lavishly illustrated book--with its copious notes and excellent index--is recommended for all collections. N. Fruman; University of Minnesota