The Byron Journal

Byron's Voice

The Byron Journal (2009), 37, (2), 121–130.

Abstract

This article discusses whether, and if so how, we might try to reconstruct the physical sound of Byron's unique and distinctive voice. It considers means such as biographical accounts of Byron's speech and the deployment of rhyme and rhythm in his work, as ways of encoding at least traces of the sound of his voice and its tone and accent. Through a commentary on this aspect of the early stanzas of Don Juan, and referring to John Walker's contemporary pronouncing dictionaries (including the one that Byron calls 'Walker's Lexicon'), it discusses 'problematic' Byronic rhymes such as 'Juan' and 'new one', 'wind' and 'behind', and 'toil' and 'vile'. It notes that Byron himself had made the transition from Aberdeen schoolboy to London dandy, and that he was evidently acutely aware from a personal point of view of the implications of different accents, and it considers his response to the increasingly prescriptive British elocutionary climate of his time.

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Author details

Jones, Christine Kenyon