Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Romantics

From Ben Downing's New York Times review of Daisy Hay's Young
Romantics: The Tangled Lives of English Poetry's Greatest Generation,
a biography of Lord Byron, John Keats, and Mary Shelley:

But if you do read "Young Romantics," be prepared to come away
outraged and depressed. The real calamities here aren't so much the
early deaths of Shelley and Byron as those of their dependents.
Shelley's abandoned first wife committed suicide, and all but one of
the four children he had with his second wife, Mary, died young.
Claire Clairmont, meanwhile, had the daughter she'd conceived with
Byron imperiously stripped from her by the poet, who, quickly tiring
of the girl, stuffed her in a convent, where she too soon died. There
was also a baby of mysterious parentage, registered as Elena Shelley,
who survived only 18 months. In short, the two poets left the Italian
peninsula, along with a few spots in England, strewn with dead
relations. While they cannot entirely be blamed, it's hard not to
conclude that their callousness, selfishness, impulsiveness and
bullying demand for "free love" were ruinous to those around them
(though in truth only Shelley idealized his lusts, the cynical Byron
merely pouncing where he could).

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