Tag Archives: The Dedication

Dear Mr. Southey, Jump in a Lake: Byron and Epic Humor

Byron's orientalist pose

There’s a recurring question that springs to mind whenever I sit in the Starbucks in the Barnes & Noble in my little East Texas town and stare up at the mural of authors who all seem to have transcended time and space to have coffee alongside the hipsters: who put Oscar Wilde next to George Eliot, Rudyard Kipling, and Trollope?  Seriously, is it any wonder that the man looks so bored?  Wilde shouldn’t be surrounded by those Victorian fogies, he should be sipping gin with Truman Capote, Christopher Hitchens, Walt Whitman, and the one man who would almost certainly guarantee a good time, and who also happens to be the focus of this Portrait_of_Lord_Byron_-_Google_Art_Projectessay, George Gordon, Lord Byron.  The reason for such inclusion is simple: Byron could be an absolutely trenchant satirist when he wanted to be.  Byron, like Wilde, Capote or Hitchens, could bring out his own breed of sharp wit whenever someone at a dinner party decided to be cleverer than him, only to  be left decimated in a single sentence by his superior rhetorical ability.  I know this is a platitude, but sometimes I really wish I could have been a fly on the wall whenever Byron let loose one of those glorious aphorisms that sealed his entrance into the hall of “Truly Spectacular One Liners,” if only to see and understand how it was that Rodney Dangerfield sealed his membership before the poet.  (Then again, when you’ve starred in Caddyshack, your “Immortality card” is pretty much secure, unless you’re that blond kid who was the protagonist, and does anybody have any clue what happened to that guy?) Continue reading Dear Mr. Southey, Jump in a Lake: Byron and Epic Humor