Item #1003603 Don Leon; A Poem by the Late Lord Byron . . . and Forming Part of the Private Journal of His Lordship, Supposed to Have Been Entirely Destroyed by Thos. Moore . . . To Which Is Added Leon to Annabella; An Epistle from Lord Byron to Lady Byron. George Gordon Byron, Lord.
Don Leon; A Poem by the Late Lord Byron . . . and Forming Part of the Private Journal of His Lordship, Supposed to Have Been Entirely Destroyed by Thos. Moore . . . To Which Is Added Leon to Annabella; An Epistle from Lord Byron to Lady Byron
Don Leon; A Poem by the Late Lord Byron . . . and Forming Part of the Private Journal of His Lordship, Supposed to Have Been Entirely Destroyed by Thos. Moore . . . To Which Is Added Leon to Annabella; An Epistle from Lord Byron to Lady Byron

Don Leon; A Poem by the Late Lord Byron . . . and Forming Part of the Private Journal of His Lordship, Supposed to Have Been Entirely Destroyed by Thos. Moore . . . To Which Is Added Leon to Annabella; An Epistle from Lord Byron to Lady Byron

London: Printed for the Booksellers, 1866 [Alençon: Charles Carrington, circa 1890]. Octavo, measuring 7.5 x 5 inches: [4], 52, 63, [3], 17, [1]. Original plain wrappers, printed dust jacket, untrimmed. Separate title page, dated 1865, for “Leon to Annabella.” Rubbing to spine ends, light edgewear to jacket.

Second extant edition of Don Leon, an early English defense of homosexuality purported to be a lost poem by Lord Byron. At least partially composed after Byron’s death, likely in the 1830s, a version of the poem was in print before 1853, when it is cited in Notes and Queries. No example of that first printing survives. The first extant edition is William Dugdale’s London edition of 1866, printed in an unsuccessful attempt to blackmail Byron’s family. This piracy, printed by Charles Carrington around 1890, is a facsimile of the Dugdale, distinguishable by the “rare editions” advertised on the verso of the jacket, which include a translation of the Satyricon spuriously attributed to Oscar Wilde. While Byron is not the author (or at least the sole author) of Don Leon, his sexual history provides the pretext for the poem’s argument for tolerance of homosexuality: “Methought there must be yet some people found, / Where Cupid’s wings were free, his hands unbound / Where law had no erotic statutes framed, / Nor gibbets stood to fright the unreclaimed.” The rumor that Byron sodomized his pregnant wife, Annabella Milbanke, leading to the dissolution of their marriage, is duly recapped: “Ah, fatal hour, that saw my prayer succeed, / And my fond bride enact the Ganymede.” The true author or authors are well-versed in early nineteenth-century parliamentary debates over the punishment of vice; as Louis Crompton notes: “The poem is in fact a rhymed pamphlet in favor of homosexual law reform that incorporates a pseudoautobiography and erotic jeux d’esprit.” Speculation as to the authorship of Don Leon has included George Colman, John Cam Hobhouse, Thomas Love Peacock, William Beckford, and William Bankes. The poem would be reprinted by the Fortune Press in 1934, in a limited edition immediately suppressed for obscenity. For more on Don Leon, see Louis Crompton, “Don Leon, Byron, and Homosexual Law Reform” in Literary Visions of Homosexuality, ed. Stuart Kellogg (1983), and the critical apparatus to the Pagan Press facsimile edition (2017). OCLC locates five holdings of this Carrington piracy worldwide (British Library, Morgan, Cornell, Penn, and Minnesota), although there are almost certainly more copies miscatalogued as the 1866 edition it purports to be. A near-fine copy of a true rarity, a fascinating early effort to overturn the criminalization of homosexual acts in England by way of Byron’s Romantic legacy.

Price: $3,200.00

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