- May 26, 2014
Why were Bryon's Turkish /Oriental Takes so popular?
In 1812 Byron published some cantos of Childe Harold and awoke to find himself famous.
Later that year he published the Giaour- about which we usually hear little.
Henry Crabbe Robinson called it worthless.
Later he said the Corsair displeases one less than the Giaour.
He had higher praise for the Bride and found the Siege :""disgusting and horrid in its effects."
Page 68 of Byron : the Critical Heritage by Andrew Rutherford
in 1814 John Murray sold 10,000 copies of The Corsair in a day.
I have noticed that the critics of the day were not impartial and that they often reviewed works according to the political slant of both the author and reviewer.
Wikipedia says about the Giaour\
"Giaour" (Turkish: Gâvur) is an offensive Turkish word for unbeliever. It is Byron's only fragmentary narrative poem. Byron designed the story with three narrators giving their individual point of view about the series of events. The main story is of Leila, a member of her master Hassan's harem, who loves the giaour and is killed by being drowned in the sea by Hassan. In revenge, the giaour kills him and then enters a monastery due to his remorse. The design of the story allows for contrast in Christian and Muslim perceptions of love, sex, death and the afterlife.
(As I do not believe Augusta had an affair with her half brother, I discount the part that says the poem was written when he was disillusioned with such affairs.)
I also fail to see the comparison of the way Moslems and Christians view death.
See the painting:
By the time the Corsair was published in 1814, the demand for the poems was great. They are well suited to be read aloud by someone with a decent talent for such an activity.
What was it about these stories that drew readers even if critics rejected the works?
Of course many applied the last line of the Corsair to Byron himself, " left a .... name to other times, link'd with one virtue and a thousand crimes."