Byron was to echo Wordsworth half-perceived and half-created. He would have affirmed Jean Baudrillard's observation that "to seduce is to die to reality and reconstitute oneself as illusion." But among the readers he seduced, in person and in poetry, were women possessed of vivid imaginations who collaborated with him in fashioning his legend. Accused of "treating women harshly," Byron acknowledged: "It may be so but I have been their martyr. My whole life has been sacrificed to them and by them." Those whom he spell bound often returned the favor in their own writings tried to remake his public image to reflect their own.
Through writings both well known and generally unknown, James Soderholm examines the poet's relationship with five women: Elizabeth Pigot, Caroline Lamb, Annabella Milbanke, Teresa Guiccioli, and Marguerite Blessington. These women participated in Byron's life and literary career and the manipulation of images that is the Byron legend.
Soderholm argues against the sentimental depictions of biographers who would preserve Byron's romantic aura by diminishing the contributions of these women to his social, sexual, and literary identity. By restoring the contexts in which literary works charm or bedevil particular readers, the author shows the consequences of Byron's poetic seductions during and after his life.