"Alas! the love of women! it is known To be a lovely and a fearful thing": Rare complete first edition set of Lord Byron's Don Juan; from the library of Erica Jong
BYRON, George Gordon Noel. [Lord Byron].
Item Number: 142573
London: Thomas Davison [i.e., John Murray], 1819-1821 (Cantos I-V, Volumes I-II)/John Hunt, 1823-24 (Cantos VI-XVI, Volumes III-VI).
Scarce complete first edition set of Byron’s great work which was widely criticized as immoral upon publication and is now considered one of the greatest poems of the Romantics; from the library of American writer Erica Jong. Volume one was produced in quarto format and the subsequent 5 volumes in octavo (Davison abandoned the quarto format after disappointing sales of the first volume), six volumes uniformly bound in full morocco with gilt titles and tooling to the spine, double gilt ruling to the front and rear panels, gilt inner dentelles, marbled endpapers, all edges gilt. With an autograph letter signed by Lady Byron bound into the first volume. Written from Moore Place, Esher, the letter reads in part, “Dear Sir, I am much obliged to you for offering to look for another young Teacher in place of the one who is engaged, but I have no difficulty in finding a Substitute. I should however be glad if you could find me an older master for a situation in Warwickshire – to manage a day-school on the Garden plan for Bogs – the emolument would not exceed 20 to 24 [pounds] with Board – He would be under the direction of a very good Clergyman – A single man would be preferred, there being no room at the Schoolhouse for him – she must lodge at some distance. Lady Olivia Sparrow is still active in her charitable undertakings, though I sometimes wish they were less governed by hasty feelings in religious matters. Yours truly A.I. Noel Byron Moore Place Esher Nov 19th.” From the library of Erica Jong. Jong remains best known for her 1973 novel Fear of Flying which became famously controversial for its portrayal of female sexuality and figured prominently in the development of second-wave feminism. Written in the first person and narrated by its protagonist, 29-year-old American poet Isadora Wing, Fear of Flying was written in the throes of the Sexual Revolution of the 1970s and encapsulated the movement’s redefinition of female sexuality. In interviews, Jong stated: “At the time I wrote Fear of Flying, there was not a book that said women are romantic, women are intellectual, women are sexual—and brought all those things together… What [Isadora is] looking for is how to be a whole human being, a body and a mind, and that is what women were newly aware they needed in 1973.” The novel remains a feminist classic and has sold more than 20 million copies worldwide. Jong notable used a quotation from Don Juan as the epigraph in Fear of Flying, “Alas! the love of women! it is known To be a lovely and a fearful thing; For all of theirs upon that die is thrown, And if ’tis lost, life hath no more to bring To them but mockeries of the past alone, And their revenge is as the tiger’s spring, Deadly, and quick, and crushing; yet, as real Torture is theirs — what they inflict they feel. They are right; for man, to man so oft unjust, Is always so to women; one sole bond Awaits them — treachery is all their trust; Taught to conceal, their bursting hearts despond Over their idol, till some wealthier lust Buys them in marriage — and what rests beyond A thankless husband — next, a faithless lover — Then dressing, nursing, praying — and all’s over. Some take a lover, some take drams or prayers, Some mind their household, others dissipation, Some run away, and but exchange their cares, Losing the advantage of a virtuous station; Few changes e’er can better their affairs, Theirs being an unnatural situation, From the dull palace to the dirty hovel: Some play the devil, and then write a novel” (Lord Byron, Don Juan, 1824). In fine condition. Scarce and with fine provenance.
"The War and Peace of English poetry, Don Juan contains an epic sweep that moves from Spain, to the East, and to Russia before ending in England… At the same time that Byron's broad canvas foretells the scope of the great 19th-century novels, the poet's own sensibilities echo the picaresque 18th-century novels of his early reading, Smollett and Fielding, with their bawdy humor and sly inversions of vice and virtue. Unlike these prose narratives, however, Don Juan has no beginning, middle, or end. It draws us in, not to learn 'what happens next' but to hear what this seductive, confidential, teasing voice is going to tell us" (Eisler, 610). When Cantos I through V appeared, they did so without the name of either author or publisher on the title page. Publisher John Murray refused to print Byron's dedicatory poem, which ridiculed English poet laureate Robert Southey, and Byron refused to put his name on a censored publication. Because of Byron's change from his long-standing publisher Murray to John Hunt (brother of writer Leigh Hunt) midway through Don Juan, complete first-edition copies with all cantos are scarce.