(Digital) Byron / (Humanities) Hunt: Revisiting Byron’s Relationship with Hunt through the Use of Digital Humanities Tools

Although based in large part on works previously published, Hunt’s Autobiography is probably the most important work of his later life, and rightly deserves Thomas Carlyle’s praise as being ‘by far the best of the autobiographic kind I remember to have read in the English language’. While a large section of the material included in Hunt’s Autobiography comes from his 1828 Lord Byron and Some of his Contemporaries, as I have discussed in my book Leigh Hunt and the London Literary Scene, 1805-1828, the tone is greatly altered. Whereas Lord Byron was very much a statement of personal justification in face of the various attacks Hunt had suffered in publications on Byron, and a reaction against the fulsome praises that the dead poet now garnered from around the country, the Autobiography offers a calmer depiction of Hunt’slife. If during the 1810s, as Tim Fulford argues, conservative critics disliked Hunt for ‘his democratization and personalization of literature’ (202), reviewers of the 1850 Autobiography praised him for the obvious sense of pleasure in the recollection of past events and friendships, as well as his more gentle treatment of Byron.

This paper will use digital humanities tools to offer a new interpretation of Hunt’s engagementwith, and representation of, Byron in both editions of his Autobiography (the longer version in three volumes published 1850 and the more selective one-volume edition published posthumously in 1860). It will also demonstrate the pivotal role of Hunt’s work in the continued development of Byron’s reputation after 1850.

This content has been updated on July 6, 2018 at 6 h 27 min.