"I Awoke One Morning And Found Myself Famous"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Thomas Moore, the Irish poet and writer of sentimental songs, the best remembered of which are "The Last Rose of Summer" and "Believe Me, If All Those Endearing Young Charms," was one of Byron's closest friends. It was to him that Byron, in a characteristically impulsive and indiscreet gesture, had given the MS of His Memoirs to do with as he pleased. Moore, who was chronically in debt, had assigned the MS to the publisher Murray for two thousand guineas. Shortly after the news of Byron's death had reached England, at a meeting in London attended by those concerned with the fate of the Memoirs, the MS was burned; and, for better or for worse, whatever Byron may have said about his own life vanished forever. Because of the notoriety–in fact, scandal–associated with the late poet, no sooner was he dead than inaccurate and highly-colored biographical notes began to appear. Moore, who had known Byron intimately, made the first attempt to write a biography that was factually accurate and that was based upon careful research. In spite of the opposition of many of the poet's other friends, he completed the work in 1830; and it still remains a cornerstone in any study of Byron's life. The quotation above sprang from the phenomenal success of the first two cantos of "Childe Harold," which appeared in March of 1812. Within three days the first edition had been sold out. Byron had already created a commotion with "English Bards and Scotch Reviewers" in 1809; now he was suddenly the most talked-about poet in England. Moore's account of the effect of the new poem is as follows:

. . . never did there exist before, and it is most probable, never will exist again, a combination of such vast mental power and surpassing genius, with so many other of those advantages and attractions, by which the world is, in general, dazzled and captivated. The effect was, accordingly electric;–his had not to wait for any of the ordinary gradations, but seemed to spring up, like the palace of a fairy tale, in a night. As he himself briefly described it in his Memoranda,–"I awoke one morning and found myself famous." The first edition of his work was disposed of instantly; and, as the echoes of its reputation multiplied on all sides, "Childe Harold" and "Lord Byron" became the theme of every tongue. . . .