English, Department of


Date of this Version

Summer 1983


Published in JOURNAL OF HOMOSEXUALITY 8:3/4 (Spring/Summer 1983), pp. 53-71. Used by permission.


The origin of the anonymous poem entitled Don Leon, written in the 1830s but known to us only in an edition of 1866, is one of the mysteries of English literary history. The title page describes the work as "A Poem by Lord Byron, Author of Childe Harold, Don Juan, &c., &c. and Forming Part of the Private Journal of His Lordship, Supposed to Have Been Entirely Destroyed by Thos. Moore," but it is less and more than this. Byron had died in 1824 and his memoirs were burned shortly after by a committee of friends and other interested parties. I The author and publisher of Don Leon were clearly trying to attract attention by pretending that the poem was part of the destroyed manuscript, but this claim was obviously not meant to be taken seriously. The numerous references in the text to parliamentary events of the thirties would have immediately informed any knowledgeable reader of that period that the poem had been written after Byron's death. By the sixties, these blatant anachronisms were less obvious; in fact, the man who republished it in 1866, William Dugdale, had at first believed the poem was genuinely Byron's.