Discuss the cultural reception of Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, Cantos 1-2 (1812) and how this contributed to and/or reflected Byron's celebrity and reputation.
Two years and twelve days after departing England for his continental tour, Lord Byron landed at Sheerness on 14 July 1811 bearing the manuscript which Jerome J. McGann would later describe as 'one of the most important works in modern Western literature'. Faced with massive debts, the death of close friends and apprehensive about reengaging a readership after his reckless attack on the British literary community in English Bards and Scotch Reviewers: A Satire (1809), the twenty-three year old Byron announced 'he would appear no more as an author. However, by examining contemporary newspapers, letters and reviews of the period, it can be seen that Byron consistently did appear as an author, and far from waking up and finding himself unexpectedly famous, 'Brand' Byron was well underway before Byron even made landfall. Furthermore, by analysing selected areas of Childe Harold and highlighting the statements of unorthodox political and cultural theory, it can be demonstrated that even hostile reviews only added to Byron's celebrity, proving the aphorism 'there is no such thing as bad publicity'. .
With false ambition what had I to do?.
Little with love, and least of all with fame;.
And yet they came unsought, and with me grew,.
And made me all which they can make a name, (emphasis added).
Yet this was not the end I did pursue;.
Surely I once beheld a nobler aim.
But all is over - I am one the more.
To baffled millions which have gone before (xiii). .
Above is a retrospective of Byron approaching the end of his four years of fame, denying any responsibility for the creation of his own celebrity. In fact, even before his Grand Tour of 1809, Byron's 'name' was already in print with Hours of Idleness (1807). Although a vanity publication financially supported by Byron's family and friends, the critics were generally encouraging until the Edinburgh Review stated: 'His effusions are spread over a dead flat, and can no more get above or below the level.