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Fugitive Pieces   By: (1788-1824)

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Fugitive Pieces , Byron's first volume of verse, was privately printed in the autumn of 1806, when Byron was eighteen years of age. Passages in Byron's correspondence indicate that as early as August of that year some of the poems were in the printers' hands and that during the latter part of August and during September the printing was suspended in order that Byron might give his poems an "entire new form." The new form consisted, in part, in an enlargement; for he wrote to Elizabeth Pigot about September that he had nearly doubled his poems "partly by the discovery of some I conceived to be lost, and partly by some new productions." According to Moore, Fugitive Pieces was ready for distribution in November. The last poem in the volume bears the date of November 16, 1806.

A difficulty in supposing the date of completion of the volume to be about November 16 is that two copies contain inscriptions in Byron's hand with earlier dates. On the copy of the late Mr. J.A. Spoor, of Chicago, the inscription reads: "October 21st Tuesday 1806 Haec poemata ex dono sunt Georgii Gordon Byron, Vale." That on the copy in the Morgan library reads: "Nov. 8, 1806, H.P.E.D.S.G.G.B., Southwell. Vale! Byron," the initials evidently standing for the Latin words of the preceding inscription. The Latin "Vale" in each inscription, however, suggests that it commemorates a leave taking, the date referring not to the presentation but to the farewell.

It has been suggested that copies of the volume were distributed earlier than November and that some of the poems, printed separately and distributed in fly leaf form, were added later. This would explain such discrepancies as the early dates of the inscriptions, and the presence of Byron's name on pages 46 and 48 in a volume otherwise anonymous, but there is little evidence to support it.

Moore's account of Fugitive Pieces is that it was distributed in November, Byron presenting the first copy to the Reverend J.T. Becher, prebendary of Southwell minster, who objected to what he considered the too voluptuous coloring of the poem "To Mary." The objection led Byron to suppress the edition immediately, he himself burning nearly every copy. This account is corroborated in part by Miss Pigot and in part by Byron.

Immediately after the destruction, Byron began the preparation of a second volume, to replace Fugitive Pieces . This appeared in January, 1807, as Poems on Various Occasions , Byron describing it as "vastly correct and miraculously chaste." Of the 38 poems that constitute Fugitive Pieces , all except "To Mary," "To Caroline," and the last six stanzas of "To Miss E.P." were reprinted in Poems on Various Occasions . Nineteen of the original 38 poems occur in Byron's third work, Hours of Idleness , published in June or July, 1807. All three editions were printed by S. and J. Ridge, booksellers of Newark, England.

Byron himself never reprinted the poems "To Mary" or "To Caroline," or the last six stanzas of "To Miss E.P." Except in a limited facsimile of Fugitive Pieces , supervised by H. Buxton Forman in 1886, "To Mary" has never been reprinted not even in supposedly complete editions of Byron's works.

Only four copies of Fugitive Pieces are known to day, and one of these is incomplete. The copy from which the present facsimile is made was originally given by Byron to Becher and preserved by him in spite of his objections to the poem "To Mary." From Becher's family it passed into the possession of Mr. Faulkner, of Louth, solicitor for the Becher family. In 1885 it was in the possession of H.W. Ball, antiquary and bookseller of Barton on Humber, who sold it to H. Buxton Forman. Forman used it for his facsimile, but incorporated certain manuscript corrections of the original, so that his facsimile is not exact... Continue reading book >>

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