"The Loudest Wit I Ever Was Deafened With"

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Last Updated on June 3, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 610

Context: Between 1818 and 1824, the year of his death, Byron was busy with an epic poem about the great Spanish lover, Don Juan. The plot is slender. Juan, after an affair with one of his mother's friends, is sent on a tour of Europe. A shipwreck during the first stage involves him in a passionate affair with the beautiful daughter of a slave-trader who sells him to a sultana. The attack upon her palace by Russian forces lets him escape her clutches, but he is sent to carry news to the Empress Catherine of Russia, who also wants him for a lover. Because of his illness, she sends him on a diplomatic mission to England. Here his charm and polish bring many opportunities for marriage, with Lady Adeline to point out the advantages of the various ladies. The only one to interest him is prim, melancholic Aurora Raby. Her indifference to him, as she sits beside him at a banquet in Lady Adeline's house, piques him. That evening he sees the ghost of the Black Friar, who had once lived in that house. Thomas Moore, the Irish poet and friend of Byron, in his life of the poet, asserts that Byron himself during a visit to Newstand Abbey in 1814 fancied he saw the ghost of the Black Friar who had haunted the place since the time of the dissolution of the monasteries. The ghost's appearance was supposed to presage a death, a wedding, or a birth. The next morning the guests talk of the ghost, and Adeline sings a song about the Black Friar and warns them all to beware of him. However, that night Juan forgets the warning. When seeing a shadowy figure, he pursues it and discovers "beneath the sable frock and dreary cowl," the voluptuous figure of one of the guests, the Duchess of Fitz-Fulke. This incident ends the narrative. Before Byron could conclude the next canto, he died in Greece, encouraging the Greeks to fight for their independence. In the 1903 edition of Byron's poems, fourteen stanzas of Canto XVII were included, printed from a manuscript in the possession of the family of a close friend, John Hobhouse, to whom the fourth canto of Childe Harold's Pilgrimage and The Siege of Corinth were dedicated. The final stanza takes up the narrative and reports the appearance next morning of a wan and weary Juan, looking as if he had struggled with ghosts, and of a pale...

(The entire section contains 610 words.)

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