Engravings illustrating the poetry and life of Lord Byron were highly popular during the early-mid 19th century. This 1833 edition, The Byron Gallery, contains 30 images by eminent engravers and painters, including William and Edward Finden. Each engraving is accompanied by a short quote from the scene it illustrates. The concept behind this particular edition is that the owner could cut out the engravings ‘for placing them in the various editions of Lord Byron’s works that have appeared in England, France, Germany, and America’.
Originally, The Byron Gallery was sold as six separate parts, each containing five engravings. They were priced at four shillings and sixpence, which the Chronicle newspaper declared ‘certainly the cheapest series of Engravings ever offered to the public’.
How was this edition received by the press and public?
Contemporary reviews suggest that The Byron Gallery was widely regarded for its high quality. The Chronicle stated that it is ‘the most beautiful’ and the Aberdeen Journal praised its ‘surpassingly beautiful Embellishments’. The Chronicle continued, ‘no edition [of Byron’s poetry] can or will be considered complete without these Plates’.
These reviews also reveal the press and public’s esteem for Byron, who is repeatedly referred to as the ‘Noble Poet’ and ‘Noble Bard’.
The Brontës’ use of Byron illustrations
Emily, Charlotte and Branwell Brontë devoured Byron’s poetry as teenagers. His life and works were to have a profound, long-lasting influence on their imaginations. Critics identify the Byronic hero as inspiration for the male protagonists of Wuthering Heights (Heathcliff) and Jane Eyre (Rochester). In their early writings and artworks the siblings incorporated direct quotes and echoed language from Byron, and made pencil and paint copies of his characters and landscapes from illustrated editions.
In The Art of the Brontës, Christine Alexander and Jane Sellars reveal that the siblings had access to a series of engravings advertised as a Byron Gallery. It is probable that this is the Byron Gallery shown here, which shares a similar title and was published in the same year that Charlotte dates her Byron copies. Interestingly, The Byron Gallery’s publishers Smith, Elder & Co. later published Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre.
Charlotte and Emily reproduced many engravings by Edward and William Finden. It is also likely, therefore, that they encountered Finden's Byron Beauties.
- Article by:
- Philip Shaw
Professor Philip Shaw traces the influence of the Battle of Waterloo on the third canto of Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, considering how Byron uses it to explore ideas of violence and sacrifice.
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