Glorious Apollo

by E. Barrington. New York: Dodd, Mead and Company. 1925. 8vo. v+369 pp. $2.50.
IN Glorious Apollo the author treads with a dispassionate, dignified, and altogether gentleman-like air a very dirty road. The theme of the book is the amorous history of Lord Byron; the treatment, though exhaustive, is decorum itself.
The effort for fairness is felt to be a little perfunctory. The reader is methodically reminded that Byron Was the victim of an evil heredity. But admonitions to be just do very little good when all the evidence presented disgusts; and until the hour of his miserable, uncomforted death it is not possible to feel a spark of compassion for the Byron of Glorious Apollo. The portrait sympathetically and imaginatively painted is that of Lady Byron. Indeed when, faced by the unendurable, she leaves her husband, the author’s interest in the shabby hero of the drama seems to flag somewhat. The significant years that followed Byron’s virtual exile from England are summarily treated. He is fairly hustled off the stage.
No one can quarrel with the book for portraying Byron as a prodigious vulgarian and cad, for romance cannot treat him worse than biography has done; but romance in this case has used rather ruthlessly its rigid of selection. The personal implication of Byron’s actual position as an artist, as one of the leaders of a great poetic movement, is ignored. His European reputation is treated virtually as asuccès de scandale. As a poet, he is allowed to have real satiric power and a superlative gift of indecency, but very little besides. Perhaps the most extraordinary passages in the book are those that represent Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage as a piquant, not to say extremely naughty, story.
The style of Glorious Apollo is a curious combination— it cannot be called a blend — of two manners. A passage almost grandiose, and one colloquial to the point of slanginess, will be found side by side. Now and then, moreover, the English language is put to strange uses; as when London is said to be ‘humming with a delicious titillation of excitement.’ Sentences comport themselves in as devil-may-care a manner as did the noble lord himself. The style is never dull.
Glorious Apollo unquestionably holds the interest. However, the not impossible reader whose study of Byron should be limited to this book might well be left wondering why the name of the highly deplorable lord should stand among those of the great.