Byron and the difficulty of beginning

Thomas Mole

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The beginnings of Byron’s longer poems reveal a number of anxieties about the poetic act of beginning. He dealt with these concerns in several ways: revising opening lines, using translations from other poets to begin his poems, repurposing lines he had written in another context, multiplying prefatory paratexts, or asking other people to make decisions about how his poems should begin. His poetic beginnings reflect a concern about whether his poems would find well-informed and sympathetic readers, and they are often concerned with what his readers can be expected to know. In his later poems, however, Byron overcame some of these anxieties as he developed a different understanding of beginnings. Beppo and Don Juan are sustained by beginning gestures, which recur repeatedly throughout the poems. These beginnings reflect the poems’ openness to contingency, which tends to make all beginnings necessarily provisional, in life as in art.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberhgx112
Pages (from-to)532–545
Number of pages13
JournalReview of English Studies
Issue number290
Early online date30 Oct 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2018


  • Byron
  • Romanticism
  • beginning in literature


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