Byron - A Literary Heavyweight

Byron'sScreen

‘[The Screen] This sporting piece of furniture, in the possession of LORD BYRON, and so much admired by the higher flights of the FANCY, from the numerous portraits and anecdotes it contained […] was made principally from the first volume of BOXIANA. At his Lordship’s sale it proved a good sporting lot, and produced a handsome sum. It originally cost his Lordship £250.’ (Boxiana II) [Bought by John Murray at 1816 auction].

‘An hour’s exercise with Mr. Jackson of pugilistic memory - has given me spirits & fatigued me into that state of languid laziness which I prefer to all other’.

The ‘exercise’ referred to, in this pronouncement by Lord Byron (1788-1824), is pugilistic sparring. Byron regularly attended lessons at the Bond-Street rooms of former prizefighting champion John ‘Gentleman’ Jackson ('the Emperor of Pugilism'). Byron claimed to have been ‘boxing for exercise, with Jackson for this last month daily’. Although only fighting on three occasions, Jackson built up such a reputation that he was regarded as a model of honesty and was accepted as a final arbiter in all pugilistic concerns. Pierce Egan portrayed him as the ‘fixed star’; other pugilists being ‘the many satellites revolving around the greater orb, deriving their principal vigour and influence from his dominion’ (Boxiana I). Byron invited Jackson to Cambridge, Brighton, as well as Newstead. (Jackson pictured above left, click on picture for link to abstract).

Egan lauded Byron’s interest and abilities in the ‘noble art’:
'His Lordship, like his poetry, always entered into the spirit of the thing; - he viewed boxing as a national propensity – a stimulus to true courage […] In setting-to […] he received with coolness from his antagonist, and returned upon his opponent with all the vigour and confidence of a master of the art. (Egan, Book of Sports)

Read 'Boxing with Byron' on the revered heavyweight Romanticism Blog.