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Byron and Mesolongi

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JournalLiterature Compass
DatePublished - Jul 2007
Issue number4
Volume4
Number of pages16
Pages (from-to)1092-1108
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

This article is a new examination of Byron's relationship with Mesolongi. The town is conventionally represented as the theatre of Byron's failure – whether heroic, foolish, tragic or otherwise – and his death there as the unintended consequence of a largely ill-considered commitment. In the context of Greek archival material, however, Byron's time in Mesolongi can be read very differently. For westernising Greeks, such as the political and military leader Alexandros Mavrokordatos, Byron had a role to play in Greek affairs that was both symbolic and pragmatic. He would be a symbol of an important change in British foreign policy towards Greek independence, a development associated with the advent of Canning as Foreign Secretary; and he was to have the primary responsibility for the disbursement of a loan which Greece was raising on the London market, a loan which would reunite the Greek insurgents after a period of civil war. Byron clearly understood the nature of this dual role and was fully prepared to take it on. Only the accident of his death prevented the full realisation of its possibilities. I use here a number of important Greek archives: those of Mavrokordatos, the Koundouriotis brothers, the Metropolitan Ignatios, as well as material from the papers of the London Greek Committee which are held in the National Library of Greece. I seek to show that Byron's time in Mesolongi can be read constructively, whatever local and temporary difficulties may cloud the picture, and that he pursued a vision of Greek Independence that was both coherent and pragmatic.

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