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Introduction to ‘Proceedings of the Byron Society, Vol. 1’

by Danny "Don Juan" Henrey

Gathered here for the first time are the various scribblings, blubberings, witterings, mumblings, utterings, scratchings, prattlings, rantings, ravings, gossipings, gabblings, cluckings, apostrophizings, slobberings, vociferatings, twitterings, jabberings, ramblings, dronings, wafflings, spoutings, howlings and bletherings of the poetical ladies and gentlemen of the Byron Society. The purpose of this brief introduction is to serve as a lifeline between the reader and his sanity, in that it seeks to provide an explanation as to what could possibly have provoked such an uncouth and demented mass assault on the foothills of Parnassus, and to lessen the impact on those of a sensitive nature of the pathetic scenes of misery, outrage and shame that inevitably result from literary encounters between the "poets" of the Byron Society and the Muses nine.

The Byron Society seeks to pursue the principle of Byronism in all things in a world which, more often than not, is inimical to the Byronic spirit. The typical Byronist (if such a thing exists) is a person who leads life solely with reference to his or her impulses of the moment, who acts entirely according to what will provide the most immediate and intense sensual gratification, regardless of conventional morality. This can manifest itself in many ways: by dining and swilling to excess on the costliest viands and wines, only to renew acquaintance with their semi-digested essences within a matter of hours; by driving up the Cornmarket at 90 m.p.h. on a Saturday morning in one's turbocharged Bentley; by ravishing one's scout, in the mistaken belief that she or he was actually a Cotswold Cutie sheep (the Byronist's preferred breed); by holding a champagne soirée on the roof of Trinity College's staircase 2, using inverted traffic cones as the receptacles into which the Bollinger Vielles Vignes '59 is poured; by "accidentally" nuking Balliol; by luring Finoula O'Halloran to the University Observatory to show her (your) Venus in the ascendant; by submitting a thesis largely plagiarised from Barbara Cartland; by claiming grossly exaggerated academic expenses in order to entertain the object of one's passions at Quat' Saisons ... and, of course, by writing poetry: the literary expression of the Byronic way of life. The "Proceedings" is a collection of the poems presented at the Byron Society dinners of 7th June 1985 and 3rd March 1987 (although some contributions from the first dinner, which were just crap, have been omitted):

· Schulze's satirical piece, surprisingly, paints a somewhat rosy picture of the state of naughtiness in the M.C.R. at the time. Despite this it does, nonetheless, make a few important and penetrating (if you get my drift) observations.

· My own "Destruction of BLV 666" although unquestionably a mighty literary masterpiece, and one which transforms the whole subject of Epic Poetry, I feel I should pass over quickly, since I do not wish to appear immodest.

· Raymond Paretzky's "Childe Danny's Pilgrimage" is an epic of the comic-heroic genre, which was awarded the Byronic Laurels: a prize approaching the Wagga-Wagga Golden Dingo Trophy for Virtuosity on the Didgeridoo in terms of international prestige. Paretzky evinces a fine control of his tendency towards verbal diarrhoea in this piece, whilst yet managing to incorporate much of the vocabulary of the ugsome, a subject which he intuitively understood.

· Chris Oakley's "Ode to a College Trifle" is, on the other hand, more Keatsian in style. That he should impute redemptive powers to such a comestible is probably indicative of a fundamental derangement in his psyche. On the other hand, these thoughts could have been induced by laudanum.

In the second, or Neanderthal, phase of the Byron Society, we find some interesting researches by "Childe Harold" Oakley. We then find that

· Richard Todd's frustrated elegy on "The Death of Frank Luntz" explores a state of affairs which most of us must have, at some time, desired, elaborating on just what makes Frank such a fascinating "specimen" (and, no, I'm not "taking the piss" here): is it his generosity, his liberal political stance, his openness to all viewpoints, his wit, his handsomeness, his long flowing astroturf mane, or his unforgettably crocodilian smile?

· Chris Oakley's "The Ballad of 'Breaker' Coughlan" is a narrative of epic proportions. It is a poem for keeping you warm on cold winter nights. "This piece has been favourably compared to a Welsh claret.", as the Australian Times said after its first publication in 1986.

· In contrast, his "Dan Juan" paints what is surely a highly fictional portrait of the supposed predilections of a most esteemed member of the society - a fellow, as all must know, far removed from the "somnolent slugabed" of the poem, with his reprehensible taste for much whoring and no work, a nocturnal punter, moreover, and - least believable of all - a sheep molester! It is to Oakley's credit that his bardic powers enable him to render such an unlikely scenario so credible.

· Rob Harington's "Marion" is unique in its lyrical high seriousness, and as such must be accounted the most touching piece in the collection. Indeed, Harington goes so far as to reveal several embarrassing autobiographical details: "We shared a castle barren and bleak/Our love flowered boldly, never stooping to weep": I have since discovered, through intense literary research with a pair of binoculars, that this passage refers to Rob's little love-nest at 174b Cowley Rd. - the "castle barren and bleak" - and that his and "Marion's" love "flowers boldly" in the municipal park opposite at 8 every Thursday night.

· As before, I will pass over my own "Vision of Enjoyment" quickly in the interests of modesty: it just would not do for me to affirm that this is the most exciting piece of writing since Bill Wobbledagger's "Hamlet".

· Anthony Mellors' "Childe Harold's Pilchardage" is, in contrast, more overtly Modernist in its lexical acrobatics, its post-Marriottan phraseology, its stylish density of idiom and athletic range of reference in image and trope. As Professor Hyram J. Boomslang of Havard-Williams College so rightly observed: '... here is proof that the Zeitgeist of neo-Derridean transmorphological hermeneutic exegesis is necessarily sublated in the hypermenopausal nanotransposed figurative protozoanism of the Mellorsian metanarrative'.

· Steven Hoey's "He walks in Darkness" takes to its ultimate, horrible conclusion the examination of the dark force which rends asunder Henrey's "Vision of Enjoyment": Here is a tale pulsating with peril, flushed with fear, dripping with danger, bowed down by blackness, throbbing with threat, mangled my malevolence, eerie with evil, warped by wickedness, infused with impiety, seized by scandal, crushed by cruelty, sundered by sin, girt by guilt, damned with degeneracy and traversed by terminal naughtiness. Read it if you dare!

· Gilly Dragowicz's verses return us to earth, and to that other perennially Byronic theme, the pains of love. With her feminine insight, she has seen to the depths of her fellow Byronic souls, for, ".. men are [my] favourite topic": Henrey is characterised as the dilatory romantic, Oakley the luminous lover, Grinstead as a "Simon", the potential "true love" or "jerk", Mellors as a Marxist Romeo, "Croc" Balding as the slide-rule seducer, Vlahoplus as happily wedded to lacrosse, and Hoey as kinkily "taken" with the vampirical appeal of a blood-sucking sexual/financial career. Individualists, each and every one!

This, in conclusion, just goes to prove that the category of "Byronist" admits just one unifying factor: the fidelity of the members of the Byron Society to the motto

Nihil tedium in vita; solamentus vinum, nookum et yawnum technicoloriis

Lord Henrey of Brent

Trin. Coll. Oxon. xvi / iii / mcmlxxxvii