Lord Byron reads The Prelude
in Counterfactual Romanticism
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Daring to imagine Wordsworth’s Prelude published ‘not long after he first finished it’ in May 1805 – rather than posthumously in 1850 – this chapter speculates on the effects on younger writers of the poem’s radical ‘self-creation mode’. The chapter explores what Wordsworth’s contemporaries were denied by the poet’s decision not to publish his autobiographical epic at the point of first completion. Counterfactually exploring the impactfulness of The Prelude’s models on Byron – and emphasising how challenging and unsympathetic certain aspects of the poem might at first have been for him – the chapter brings into play an uncannily ‘Romantic’ (rather than Victorian) Prelude and a defamiliarised Byron, with each becoming the other’s uncanny avatar.

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