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Byron is unusual amongst epic poets in thinking of his poem not as the ‘single wonder of a thousand years,’ but as taking its place in the contemporary publishing industry. His cool awareness that Don Juan is a poem offered for sale in the literary marketplace disqualified for many readers its title to be a work of literature at all, let alone to be the epic poem of the age, but, as I suggest in Chapter 3, one reason that Byron’s poem has a better claim to embody the age’s spirit than The Prelude or The Excursion or, for that matter, Southey’s Joan of Arc or The Curse of Kehama, is because it can accommodate so many of the kinds of writing produced in Britain in the 1820s. It finds room for all kinds of writing from novels to advertisements in newspapers. The epic was the highest kind of literature but the epic of the nineteenth century had to accommodate all those kinds of writing that earlier epic poets would have thought of as beneath them.
In Chapter 7, I focus on the difference that functions in Don Juan as the type of all the other differences that the poem explores, the difference between what Byron has to say, and the form, ottava rima, in which he has to say it. The chapter asks what it might mean for a poem so frankly to confess how the poet is at the mercy of the demands of rhyme (‘This should be entre nous for Julia thought / In French, but then the rhyme would go for nought’) and of metre, as when he admits that he had added a word to a quotation from Horace simply because ‘prosody’ demanded it. Byron’s offences against rhyme and metre are carefully designed to prevent his readers from ever forgetting the difference between what he means to say and what the verse form he has chosen allows him to say.
In Chapter 4, I turn to the difference that concerns Byron most often in the poem, the difference between men and women, and it turns too to another difference that makes the relationship between men and women so fraught, the difference between what people say and what they are. ‘Philo-genitiveness’ is, Byron remarks, ‘a word quite after [his] own heart,’ but there is another word, ‘a shorter a good deal than this,’ coupled with it by alliteration, that everyone knows but that cannot be published in a poem. A still more scabrous pair of words, ‘cant’ and a word that differs from it only in a single vowel, is still more central to a poem in which Byron explores the space that has opened up between the words that can be printed and the words that can only be thought, a space that defines for him the discrepancy between what people say and what they think.
Chapter 2 presents Don Juan as an anti-heroic epic. The poem begins, ‘I want a hero,’ and it ends still in the same predicament, because Don Juan, the figure from the pantomime that Byron selects for his hero, so signally fails to fulfil that role. In Don Juan, I argue, Byron chooses a hero who fails to dominate his own poem, a hero who is always finding himself pushed to the sidelines of his own story, and that paradoxically is one of the conditions of his poem’s enormous success.
Chapter 1 asks what kind of poem Don Juan is. It asks whether Byron’s claim, ‘my poem’s epic,’ is serious or whether, as he told John Murray, it was a poem written with no intention other than to ‘giggle and make giggle.’ It arrives at the conclusion that Byron wrote Don Juan at a time when the epic poem, the poem that truly expressed the spirit of its age, could succeed only if it agreed also to be trivial. The epic poem of the 1820s could only achieve epic status by being, to echo a phrase of Angela Esterhammer’s, profoundly trivial.
In Chapter 6, I focus on the swift transitions that so distressed many of the poem’s first readers. In the London Magazine, for example, John Scott deplored ‘the quick alternation’ in Don Juan ‘of pathos and profaneness, – of serious and moving sentiment and indecent ribaldry.’ Scott added, ‘This is not an English fault.’ The chapter will trace how soon the habits that struck Scott as foreign came to be thought of as supremely English as Shakespearean, and what that means not just for the reception of Don Juan but for how people’s understanding and not just of the history of literature but of the world around them had changed.
The difference between what should and what should not be published is the subject too of Chapter 5. Don Juan is thickly seeded with references to Byron’s own domestic circumstances. Many of his readers, his friendliest, most sympathetic readers amongst them, believed that those private allusions ought to have rendered his poem unpublishable. Don Juan is a poem in which Byron addressed the state of Europe and the state of Britain, and it is also, as I point out in this chapter, a poem written by a man who had been abandoned by his wife, and responded to the hurt done to him by writing a poem that all through its sixteen cantos holds that wife up to public ridicule. The Divine Comedy and Paradise Lost, Byron impertinently suggests, had in common that they were written by poets ‘hapless in their nuptials.’ The epic poem of the nineteenth century, I argue, could only be written by a poet similarly circumstanced.
In the Introduction, taking my cue from a speech made by George Canning in 1820, I argue that Don Juan is addressed to a reading nation conceived as an aggregate of individuals rather than a community. It is a poem addressed to a readership that Byron recognises as a collection of heterogeneous individuals.
In Chapter 8, I ask why Byron should have insisted that his was ‘a liberal age’ at a time when in Britain and all over Europe liberalism seemed to be, if not defeated, then at least everywhere in retreat. It points out that the word ‘liberal’ had various meanings in the period, meanings that might, as one contemporary commentator put it, be ‘the very reverse of each other.’ Byron’s liberalism, I argue, is characteristically self-contradictory, for which reason Hazlitt dismisses it as ‘preposterous.’ But Byron was a liberal, perhaps, because liberal was the only available description of his views flexible enough to accommodate their variousness. The chapter argues that the language of liberalism in the nineteenth century was powerful precisely because it was fragmented, and that Byron deploys that language more searchingly than any of the Victorian novelists who are his true heirs.
In this first full-length study of Byron's masterpiece in over thirty years, Richard Cronin boldly presents Don Juan as the epic poem of its age. Impressively illuminating the whole literary nineteenth century through a single work, he asks what kind of epic can be said to represent an era more readily defined by newspapers and magazines than by competitors such as Wordsworth's Excursion or Southey's Joan of Arc arose. Delving into questions of form and choice of hero, he also explores the controversies that informed the poem's reception, its contemporary interactions, and its influence on later nineteenth-century literature. Don Juan, he argues, is the epic poem demanded by an age of cant and dissembling, when people's feelings and the world they lived in had become disconnected. In it, he finds a powerful defence of liberal thinking at a time when that kind of thinking was under threat.
We examined the use of antibiotics for acute respiratory infections in an urgent-care setting.
Retrospective database review.
The study was conducted in 2 urgent-care clinics staffed by academic emergency physicians in San Diego, California.
Visits for acute respiratory infections were identified based on presenting complaints.
The primary outcome was a discharge prescription for an antibiotic. The patient and provider characteristics that predicted this outcome were analyzed using logistic regression. The variation in antibiotic prescriptions between providers was also analyzed.
In total, 15,160 visits were analyzed. The patient characteristics were not predictive of antibiotic treatment. Physicians were more likely than advanced practice practitioners to prescribe antibiotics (1.31; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.21–1.42). For every year of seniority, a provider was 1.03 (95% CI, 1.02–1.03) more likely to prescribe an antibiotic. Although the providers saw similar patients, we detected significant variation in the antibiotic prescription rate between providers: the mean antibiotic prescription rate within the top quartile was 54.3% and the mean rate in the bottom quartile was 21.7%.
The patient and provider characteristics we examined were either not predictive or were only weakly predictive of receiving an antibiotic prescription for acute respiratory infection. However, we detected a marked variation between providers in the rate of antibiotic prescription. Provider differences, not patient differences, drive variations in antibiotic prescriptions. Stewardship efforts may be more effective if directed at providers rather than patients.
In 1881, Arnold concluded that, of the century’s poets, ‘Wordsworth and Byron stand out by themselves’.1 The judgement was a little more surprising then than it seems now, because the reputations of both were if not in eclipse then at least overshadowed. Between 1840 and 1870 it was the fashion, according to John Nichol, to talk of Byron as ‘a sentimentalist, a romancer, a shallow wit, a nine days’ wonder, a poet for “green, unknowing youth”’.2 After Wordsworth died a fund was established to raise a memorial to him, but it was less successful than had been hoped. Macaulay commented that ‘ten years earlier more money could have been raised in Cambridge alone’. Arnold tells that story in 1879, in the preface to his selection of Wordsworth’s poems, and it was that volume that did most to re-establish Wordsworth’s reputation.3 There were more hands involved in salvaging Byron’s. In 1870, Alfred Austin published The Poetry of the Period, in which all the century’s poets are compared with Byron and found wanting, and in the same year John Morley brought out his essay on Byron as the poet of the French Revolution in the Fortnightly Review.4 Ten years later, John Nichol published the volume on Byron in Morley’s English Men of Letters series from which I have already quoted. But the first sign that a revival in Byron’s fortunes might be under way came in 1866, when Swinburne published his Selection from the Works of Lord Byron.5