Fictions of Byron: An Annotated Bibliography
by G. Todd Davis


Le Vampire. Charles Nodier. 1820. This play features Lord Ruthven, an intertextual homage to both Lamb's Glenarvon and Polidori's The Vampyre. Four more Parisian plays featuring Lord Ruthven were followed on the English stage by James R. Planche's The Vampire, or, the Bride of the Isles.

Ada Reis. Lady Caroline Lamb. 1823. Lamb characterizes Ada Reis as a passionate, tempestuous man, given to loud bouts of anger and seething revenge. In the beginning of the novel, he kills two of his retainers because they fail to meet his expectations, whereupon he is introduced to Kabkarra, the evil demon and half-brother to Zevahir, the guardian angel, both of whom are vying for Reis's soul. Ada Reis serves and manipulates numerous masters before eventually landing in the Americas to become the king of the indigenous people there. Throughout the text, he constantly seeks pleasure and pursues evil. His daughter, Fiormonda, follows his lead, even though she begins with a decent disposition. Her heart is turned by Condulmar, with whom she falls in love. He spurns her, which makes her love him even more. Eventually, they all end up in Zubanyann's infernal realm, where all but Fiormonda are doomed to eternal punishment. Fiormonda repents at the last minute, then Zevahir whisks her away to a convent where she lives a wholesome and moral life until she dies. Overall, a Gothic text in texture, reminiscent of Beckford's Vathek in both plot structure and tone, although not as satisfying. Numerous inane and useless twists and turns are housed within a rather loose plot structure. Both Ada and Condulmar have exaggerated Byronic aspects.

Valperga; or The Life and Adventures of Castruccio, Prince of Lucca. Mary Shelley. 1823. Shelley's historical novel draws from the biography of Castruccio Castracani, a warlord of Lucca, Tuscany, a leading figure of the Ghibelline faction who rose to power in the early fourteenth century vying against the Guelph faction. He irrevocably harms two women, Beatrice and Euthanasia, in the process. Claire Clairmont equates Castruccio with Byron and Euthanasia with Shelley. In a letter to Mary Shelley on 15 March 1836, she writes: "I stick to Frankenstein merely because the vile spirit [Lord Byron] does not haunt its pages as it does in all your other novels, now as Castruccio, now as Raymond, now as Lodore. Good God to think a person of your genius, whose moral tact ought to be proportionably exalted, should think it a task befitting its powers to gild and embellish and pass off as beautiful what was the merest compound of vanity, folly, and every miserable weakness that ever met together in one human Being. . . . I shall be curious to see if the hero of your new novel [Falkner] will be another Beautified Byron. Thank Heaven you have not taken to drawing your women upon the same model: Cornelia I like the least of themshe is the most like him because she is so heartlessly proud and selfish, but all the others are angels of light. Euthanasia is Shelly in female attire and what a glorious being she is" (Clairmont Correspondence II, 341-2).

Narrative of Lord Byron's Voyage to Corsica and Sardinia, during the Summer and Autumn of the Year 1821. Captain Benson. 1824. The subtitle proceeds as follows: "Compiled from Minutes Made during the Voyage by the Passengers; and Extracts from the Journal of His Lordship's Yacht, the Mazeppa." This text is less a fiction than a specious journal of Byron's travels during a few months in 1821. Presumably, Captain Benson was attempting to cash in on Byron's notoriety and popularity by writing an "insider's story," similar one might say to the journal John Murray paid John Polidori to keep while the latter was in Byron's employ.

Le Dernier Chant du Pélérinage d'Harold. Alfonse de Lamartine. 1825. The poem, a continuation of Byron's Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, begins with the narrator's Invocation to the Muse. Lamartine reintroduces the reader to Harold, who is in the process of leaving his sleeping beloved. He has a ship ready and he and his crew are leaving to engage in battle. A brief skirmish ensues, wherein they destroy the Turkish ship and Harold rescues a young girl, who just happens to be his daughter, Ada. She doesn't know him, but she carries a locket around her neck with his picture. His death imminent, Harold, together with Ada, ends up with a Christian Hermit. Many long passages of doubt, wandering, and soul-searching commence. Harold eventually dies, lauding nature over the faith he might have had in God. Nature seems unaffected. The end of the poem shows Harold at his final judgment. He is put to the test in order to gain heaven and given three torches to light his way: Faith, Reason, and Genius. The first goes out almost immediately, too bright for Harold to handle. The premature failure of the other two torches leaves Harold unable to choose wisely and he is sent to Hell. Thematically, Byron (once again defined by his own literary construction) has led a profligate and immoral life. His only two assets (reason and genius) fail to help him in the end, when faith in the one true god would have redeemed him. In this way, Lamartine warns his readers away from a lifestyle of excess and recommends Christianity, guiding the reader to a fulfilling, moral life.

Wanderings of Childe Harolde. A Romance of Real Life interspersed with Memoirs of the English Wife, the Foreign Mistress and various other Celebrated Characters. John Harman Bedford. 1825. This text resembles a biography more than a novel. As announced in the title, Bedford intersperses the biography with sometimes factual, sometimes fictional comments by Lady Byron and other important personages within the Byron circle.

The Last Man. Mary Shelley. 1826. Byron, commemorated in this novel as Lord Raymond, is married to the sister of the narrator, Lionel Verney, but has an affair with a talented Greek princess, Evadne. Lord Raymond, politically ambitious, rises to become Lord Protector of England, in contrast to the figure of Adrian (Percy Shelley), who remains reluctant to accept the mantle of ruler of England. Before humanity can be destroyed by plague, Lord Raymond brings about the destruction of his family's happiness and exiles himself, only to die in the war to free Constantinople from the Turks. The last three humans alive are Lionel, Adrian, and Raymond's daughter Clara, but Adrian and Clara perish at sea leaving Lionel alive as the last man.