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Childe Harold's Pilgrimage: Canto IV

By: George Gordon Byron, Lord

It describes the travels and reflections of a world-weary young man, who is disillusioned with a life of pleasure and revelry and looks for distraction in foreign lands. In a wider sense, it is an expression of the melancholy and disillusionment felt by a generation weary of the wars of the post-Revolutionary and Napoleonic eras. The title comes from the term childe, a medieval title for a young man who was a candidate for knighthood.

The poem contains elements thought to be autobiographical, as Byron generated some of the storyline from experience gained during his travels through Portugal, the Mediterranean and Aegean Sea between 1809 and 1811. The "Ianthe" of the dedication was the term of endearment he used for Lady Charlotte Harley, about 11 years old when Childe Harold was first published. Charlotte Bacon, née Harley, was the second daughter of 5th Earl of Oxford and Lady Oxford, Jane Elizabeth Scott. Throughout the poem, Byron, in character of Childe Harold, regretted his wasted early youth, hence re-evaluating his life choices and re-designing himself through going on the pilgrimage, during which he lamented various historical events including the Iberian Peninsular War.

 

Despite Byron's initial hesitation at having the first two cantos of the poem published because he felt it revealed too much of himself, it was published, at the urging of friends, by John Murray in 1812, and brought both the poem and its author to immediate and unexpected public attention. Byron later wrote, "I awoke one morning and found myself famous". The first two cantos in John Murray's edition were illustrated by Richard Westall, well-known painter and illustrator who was then commissioned to paint portraits of Byron.

 

Published on March 3, 1812, the first run of 500 quarto copies sold out in three days. There were ten editions of the work within three years. Byron was deeming the work "my best" in 1817, a year before adding a fourth canto.

 

Book Details

Language

English

Original Language

English

Published In

1812

Author

George Gordon Byron, Lord

England, Ottoman Empire, Turkey

George Gordon Byron, 6th Baron Byron, known simply as Lord Byron, was an English peer, who was a poet and politician. He was one of the leading figures of the Romantic Movement and is regarded as one...

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