The Byron Journal

'Full many a line undone': Why Misprints Matter in Don Juan

The Byron Journal (2010), 38, (2), 135–144.

Abstract

Both in Don Juan and in his correspondence, Byron repeatedly frets about misprints and textual slip-ups. This essay attempts to make sense of that anxiety, which is linked to several of Don Juan's preoccupations. For Byron, the remembrance of the dead is a serious duty, so misprints can be a serious failing. When dealing with war or religion, Byron recognised a responsibility to be accurate; the example of Dr Johnson, meanwhile, provided a justification for extreme care over minutiae. The circumstances of Don Juan's hectic publication made these concerns immediate, and in his attitude to misprints many of Byron's deeper convictions were brought together. The essay suggests a response to those critics – from Hazlitt to the present day – who have seen Byron's poetic manner as chiefly destructive or even cynical.

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Author details

Hitchens, Daniel