Published online by Cambridge University Press: 04 October 2019
On November 4, 1811, the Whig poet and banker Samuel Rogers invited Byron to dine at his house together with fellow poets Thomas Campbell and Thomas Moore. To his host’s consternation, Byron declined all offers of food and drink, seemingly pleased with “potatoes bruised down on his plate and drenched with vinegar.” A few days later, on meeting Byron’s friend John Cam Hobhouse, Rogers enquired: “How long will Lord Byron persevere in his present diet?” The answer was: “Just as long as you continue to notice it” (HVSV 41). This anecdote, from a few months before Byron became the most talked-about poet in Britain, significantly catches him in the process of learning to “act famous.” Not yet a literary star, he comes across as a moody poseur, knowingly playing with his audience and their intersecting gazes, at the center of which is his own body, that pivotal and hugely problematic part of the Byronic myth.
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