While Lord Byron was among the literary elite of Romantic print culture, his combination of blasphemy, political sedition, and hedonistic morality also made him a great favorite among underground publishers with radical allegiances and unconventional morality. Byron's long poem Don Juan (1819-1824) was the fulcrum for colliding communities within London's rapidly expanding print culture of the 1820s. Increasingly aligned with an underground radical, libertarian, and obscene press, Byron's poem animated debates about the proliferation and mass consumption of popular print. The pirating of Don Juan's later scandalous harem cantos only escalated the debates and ultimately led to legal deliberation over the poem's copyright. In this paper I argue that the controversy that erupted over Don Juan was connected to the emergence of obscenity as a trade and reveals how obscenity began to gather meaning in relation to reprographic media, popular consumption, and orientalism.
- 2005 by The Regents of the University of California