George Gordon Byron, Lord


(London, New York: George Routeledge and Sons, [1880])

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“A volume of Byron's poems lay before him on the table. He opened it cautiously with his left hand lest he should waken the child and began to read the first poem in the book . . .”

-“A Little Cloud” (D 83)

Little Chandler likes to imagine his name in print—especially with a Celtic inflection, T. Malone Chandler. With Chandler’s tentative literary ambition and Ignatius Gallaher’s journalistic braggadocio, “A Little Cloud” exists on the margins of Dublin’s literary scene and its opportunities and difficulties. For Chandler, books signify past ambitions and opportunities lost, and his library represents an earlier life. When he removes a volume of Byron from his shelves near the end of the story, he carefully balances the tome in his left hand with the child in his right, as if weighing authorship against fatherhood.

Joyce owned a similar edition of the Routledge collection of Byron’s poems, and it is one of the most heavily annotated books in his collection (JJTL 92). Byron was one of Joyce’s childhood literary heroes. The young Joyce was once beaten by classmates for upholding the heretical Byron as the greatest English poet (JJ 40). However, his opinions were not wholly out of step with Dublin’s book buyers. In April 1898 the English periodical The Academy asked booksellers across the British isles whether Byron was read or not. Messrs. Hodges, Figgis, & Co. of Dublin responded: “On the whole Byron sells fairly well here, and has not shown signs of diminishing popularity during recent years. We find it necessary to keep a good stock of the one-volume editions in both cloth and leather binding; and the ‘Selections,’ in the ‘Golden Treasury Series,’ is constantly inquired for.” The opinions from London, Birmingham, Bristol and elsewhere seem split regarding the extent of Byron’s decline, but at least in Dublin, the poet seemed to retain relevance and book sales.