Duncan Fallowell

The Nature of Celebrity

Byron

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Byron: a Poet Before his Public

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One Morning Scrope Davies called on Byron and surprised him in bed. Davies found the poet wearing paper curlers in his hair. Byron stirred and admitted that curlers were a foolish habit.

When Byron indulged in Thought, it sometimes led to a tumultuous confusion of ideas. Believing himself to be very possibly the most remarkable man in Europe, he would grip his head and exclaim ‘I shall go mad!’ to which Scrope Davies would customarily reply ‘Much more like silliness than madness’. And Byron would see it at once.

Here is the clue to Byron’s magnetism. Far more than charm, it was a quality of tremendous possibility. Where Byron was, something else might conceivably happen. Though an easy prey to routine himself (mercury requiring a vessel), he agitated the habits of others, generating alertness, aliveness. This sense of imminence was brought about by the simultaneous and dynamic presence within him of opposites, qualities of light and dark. And while it remains fashionable to disparage his poetry, the vigorous mercuriality of his nature continues to attract attention, for the modem world sees there a precursor of its own restless spirit.

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