IN a study which he dedicates "above all to John Livingston Lowes, master and friend," Mr. Calvert attempts an explanation of the "romantic paradox" of Byron through an analysis of his poems. Byron, Mr. Calvert holds, did not at one time depend upon the school of Pope and at another skip blithely to the romantic manner. The critic presents a consistent Byron, a man who contained in himself elements of both classicist and romanticist, at all times sincere; and not spasmodically, but progressively ridding himself of the superficial aspects of each until he reached his height in "Don Juan."
Little appraisal of the romantic period at large, small attention to the times of which Byron was a symbol, are notable in this work. Mr. Calvert's criticism is limited to Byron as he portrayed himself in his published writings and in his letters. Humble, serious, much of a realist despite his exhibitionistic tendencies, Mr. Calvert finds Byron complex, yet tangible. "Where Keats is autumn haze and Shelley pure ether," he says, "Byron is rock--and the hard outcroppings may indicate geologic epochs or hot underflows of lava that are worth nothing and understanding."
In such chapter headings as "the Practical Poet," "Escape," "Rebirth," and "Achievement," Mr. Calvert traces the trend of Byron's gaudy career as playboy and poet. He dissects painlessly the processes of Byron's hasty and sometimes haphazard composition. He devotes time to analysis of Byron's satire--what part of it is pure wittiness, how much deliberately vengeful.
"Byron, Romantic Paradox," is a defense of the man as an artist who "knew what he was doing and why." It forms a stimulating and novel approach, a treatment equally without impudence and undue awe of the glamorous genius who today is commonly either relentlessly attacked or blindly upheld.
Beautifully printed and well bound by the Chapel Hill Press of the University of North Carolina, the book itself is a worthy medium for the conveyance of its many valuable and refreshing ideas.