Lord Byron's Poems

Bibliographical Note to 'Hours of Idleness and Other Early Poems'

There were four distinct issues of Byron's Juvenilia. The first collection, entitled 'Fugitive Pieces', was printed in quarto by S. and J. Ridge of Newark. Two of the poems, "The Tear" and the "Reply to Some Verses of J. M. B. Pigot, Esq.," were signed "BYRON;" but the volume itself, which is without a title-page, was anonymous. It numbers sixty-six pages, and consists of thirty-eight distinct pieces. The last piece, "Imitated from Catullus. To Anna," is dated November 16, 1806. The whole of this issue, with the exception of two or three copies, was destroyed. An imperfect copy, lacking pp. 17-20 and pp. 58-66, is preserved at Newstead. A perfect copy, which had been retained by the Rev. J. T. Becher, at whose instance the issue was suppressed, was preserved by his family (see 'Life', by Karl Elze, 1872, p. 450), and is now in the possession of Mr. H. Buxton Forman, C.B. A facsimile reprint of this unique volume, limited to one hundred copies, was issued, for private circulation only, from the Chiswick Press in 1886.

Of the thirty-eight 'Fugitive Pieces', two poems, viz. "To Caroline" and "To Mary," together with the last six stanzas of the lines, "To Miss E. P. [To Eliza]," have never been republished in any edition of Byron's Poetical Works.

A second edition, small octavo, of 'Fugitive Pieces', entitled 'Poems on Various Occasions', was printed by S. and J. Ridge of Newark, and distributed in January, 1807. This volume was issued anonymously. It numbers 144 pages, and consists of a reproduction of thirty-six 'Fugitive Pieces', and of twelve hitherto unprinted poems--forty-eight in all. For references to the distribution of this issue--limited, says Moore, to one hundred copies--see letters to Mr. Pigot and the Earl of Clare, dated January 16, February 6, 1807, and undated letters of the same period to Mr. William Bankes and Mr. Falkner ('Life', pp. 41, 42). The annotated copy of 'Poems on Various Occasions', referred to in the present edition, is in the British Museum.

Early in the summer (June--July) of 1807, a volume, small octavo, named 'Hours of Idleness'--a title henceforth associated with Byron's early poems--was printed and published by S. and J. Ridge of Newark, and was sold by the following London booksellers: Crosby and Co.; Longman, Hurst, Rees, and Orme; F. and C. Rivington; and J, Mawman. The full title is, 'Hours of Idleness; a Series of Poems Original and Translated'. By George Gordon, Lord Byron, a Minor. It numbers 187 pages, and consists of thirty-nine poems. Of these, nineteen belonged to the original 'Fugitive Pieces', eight had first appeared in 'Poems on Various Occasions', and twelve were published for the first time. The "Fragment of a Translation from the 9th Book of Virgil's AEneid" ('sic'), numbering sixteen lines, reappears as "The Episode of Nisus and Euryalus, A Paraphrase from the AEneid, Lib. 9," numbering 406 lines.

The final collection, also in small octavo, bearing the title 'Poems Original and Translated', by George Gordon, Lord Byron, second edition, was printed and published in 1808 by S. and J. Ridge of Newark, and sold by the same London booksellers as 'Hours of Idleness'. It numbers 174 pages, and consists of seventeen of the original 'Fugitive Pieces', four of those first published in 'Poems on Various Occasions', a reprint of the twelve poems first published in 'Hours of Idleness', and five poems which now appeared for the first time--thirty-eight poems in all. Neither the title nor the contents of this so-called second edition corresponds exactly with the previous issue.

Of the thirty-eight 'Fugitive Pieces' which constitute the suppressed quarto, only seventeen appear in all three subsequent issues. Of the twelve additions to 'Poems on Various Occasions', four were excluded from 'Hours of Idleness', and four more from 'Poems Original and Translated'.

The collection of minor poems entitled 'Hours of Idleness', which has been included in every edition of Byron's Poetical Works issued by John Murray since 1831, consists of seventy pieces, being the aggregate of the poems published in the three issues, 'Poems on Various Occasions', 'Hours of Idleness', and 'Poems Original and Translated', together with five other poems of the same period derived from other sources.

In the present issue a general heading, "Hours of Idleness, and other Early Poems," has been applied to the entire collection of Early Poems, 1802-1809. The quarto has been reprinted (excepting the lines "To Mary," which Byron himself deliberately suppressed) in its entirety, and in the original order. The successive additions to the 'Poems on Various Occasions', 'Hours of Idleness', and 'Poems Original and Translated', follow in order of publication. The remainder of the series, viz. poems first published in Moore's 'Life and Journals of Lord Byron' (1830); poems hitherto unpublished; poems first published in the 'Works of Lord Byron' (1832), and poems contributed to J. C. Hobhouse's 'Imitations and Translations' (1809), have been arranged in chronological order. (For an important contribution to the bibliography of the quarto of 1806, and of the other issues of Byron's Juvenilia, see papers by Mr. R. Edgcumbe, Mr. H. Buxton Forman, C.B., and others, in the 'Athenaeum', 1885, vol. ii. pp. 731-733, 769; and 1886, vol. i. p. 101, etc. For a collation of the contents of the four first issues and of certain large-paper copies of 'Hours of Idleness', etc., see 'The Bibliography of the Poetical Works of Lord Byron', vol. vi. of the present edition.)