Works: A New Canto

London:  William Wright, 1819. 

Some—for example, scholar Paula Feldman—doubt that this is the work of Lady Caroline Lamb, mainly because it is more dense with allusions than her other poems. However, there is no other viable claimant to the authorship of A New Canto; and who but the author would have requested Murray to send her brother Frederick a copy of A New Canto along with another book of her own titled Penruddock? She has been listed in such reference works as the Dictionary of National Biography and the Cambridge Bibliography of English Literature as the author of the poem since the 1880s.

As I have commented elsewhere in this site (see Biography: Byron: Glenarvon and Don Juan) the typical recriminations and rationalizations of the jilted found in Julia’s letter to Juan at the end of Canto 1 might have come from many places, but the evidence argues that Glenarvon gave them their particular form in Byron’s poem. Lady Caroline certainly read Julia’s letter in Don Juan as an allusion to herself. This, taken with the insult of Canto 2’s dismissive “Some play the devil—and then write a novel” (Don Juan 2.201), caused her to write her own “New Canto” of Don Juan, published in 1819.  At this time, many Byron parodies based on Childe Harold were appearing. Byron’s  Cambridge friend, Reverend Frances Hodgson, had published Childe Harold’s Monitor.  Satirist William Hone wrote Don Juan: Canto the Third, comprised of 114 stanzas of doggerel. The anonymous Jack the Giant Queller, or Prince Juan, consisted of thirty-eight stanzas of similar quality. Lady Caroline’s poem excels all of these.

Indeed, A New Canto was an act of artistic fulfillment for which the author had served a long apprenticeship, but by this time, Byron had been well-tutored. If he ever knew of its existence, A New Canto provoked no response from him. The poem received one brief notice, then disappeared, to be forgotten for decades.

Peter Cochran has annotated a complete text online.

Reviews:

Monthly Review New Series.  v. 94 (1821), 329.

“The writer of this lively nonsense has evidently intended it as an imitation of Lord Byron.  It is a rhapsody from beginning to end, describing the sudden arrival of dooms-day; and to those who are fond of extravagance, and doggerel versification, it may seem to possess merit.” [This is the complete text of the review.]