"Truth Is Stranger Than Fiction"

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Last Updated on June 3, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 201

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Context: In Canto XIV, Byron's hero is a guest at a house party in England (see "Cervantes smil'd Spain's chivalry away"). Juan's hostess, Lady Adeline, attempts to rescue him from an intrigue. Byron hints, however, that something may develop between Adeline and Juan: "It is not clear that Adeline and Juan/ Will fall; but if they do, 'twill be their ruin" (Stanza 99). In the next stanza he observes that a "sentimental situation" can bring "man and woman to the brink/ Of ruin." It is evidently this "truth" that is referred to in the quotation. Byron's persistent linking of love and ruin doubtless stems from his own disastrous experience with marriage. Other authors have voiced similar opinions about truth: "Truth may sometimes be improbable."–Boileau (1636-1711): The Art of Poetry, III, 50; "There is nothing so powerful as truth, and often nothing so strange."–Daniel Webster (1782-1852): "Argument on the Murder of Captain White" (April 6, 1830); "Truth is stranger than fiction, but not so popular."–Author unknown. Stanza 101 of Don Juan begins:

'Tis strange,–but true; for truth is always strange;
Stranger than fiction: if it could be told,
How much would novels gain by the exchange!
How differently the world would men behold!


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