Lord Byron (allonym), Don Leon & Leon to Annabella,
edited by John Lauritsen, Pagan Press 2017, ISBN 978-0-943742-21-2, 185
pages, $14.99. Smyth-sewn case binding. Printed on
acid-free paper. Publication date: 1 July 2017.
Written and published in the early 19th century, Don Leon
is unique in English Literature. It is a powerful outcry against
injustice, a moving and erudite defense of male love, and an account of
Byron's sexuality, which on the whole has proven to be true.
forcefully demands the repeal of Britain's sodomy (or “buggery”)
statute, under which men and even adolescent boys were being hanged for
having sex with each other. As a polemic for the emancipation of
male love, Don Leon is not only far in advance of its time, but is far
in advance of our own time. There is no suggestion of a minority
psycho-sexual condition (“homosexuality”), nor that males who have sex
with each other are different from other males. The love of male
for male is treated as potentially part of all human males, not just a
Among neglected literary masterpieces, Don Leon
heads the list — not only neglected, but vilified and rigorously
suppressed. It is great poetry — a gay epic. At the same
time, it is undeniably pornographic. In 1934, when Fortune Press
published Don Leon, together with its companion poem, Leon to Annabella, the edition was immediately confiscated by the London police, who burned all the copies they could find.
Although previous editions have shown “Lord Byron” as the author, he
cannot be the sole author, since the poem refers to events after his
death. The vexed question of authorship is discussed at length.
This edition reproduces gay historian Louis Crompton's long article,
“Don Leon, Byron, and Homosexual Law Reform”, in which he discusses the
history of the poem and analyzes it in historic context.
This will be the definitive edition of Don Leon.
In preparing it, editor John Lauritsen spent days in New York City's
Morgan Library, which has the unique surviving first edition copy of Leon to Annabella and the oldest surviving edition of Don Leon
(Dugdale 1866). Both poems, and especially the notes, contain
many passages, some of them long, in foreign languages: Latin, Greek,
French, German, and Italian. This is the first edition
to translate them into English.
This book is of great value to gay historians and students of
Romanticism. It can be read for pleasure by anyone who loves
• To read a review by historian William A. Percy click here.
• To read a review by Alan Contreras in Gay & Lesbian Review click here.
• To read a review by Caroline McCullagh (Mensa Bulletin) click here.
• To read a review by Steven J. Willett, an authority on metrics and world literature, click here.
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