The Corsair, by Byron

Bibliographical Note on The Corsair.

In comparison with the Giaour, the additions made to the Corsair whilst it was passing through the press were inconsiderable. The original MS., which numbers 1737 lines, is probably the fair copy of a number of loose sheets which have not been preserved. The erasures are few and far between, and the variations between the copy and the text are neither numerous nor important.

In one of the latest revises stanza x. was added to the First Canto. The last four lines of stanza xi. first appeared in the Seventh Edition.

The Second Canto suffered no alteration except the substitution of lines 1131–1133 for two lines which were expunged.

Larger additions were made to the Third Canto. Lines 1299–1375, or stanza v. (included in a revise dated January 6, 1814), stanzas xvii. and xxiii., numbering respectively 77, 32, and 16 lines, and the two last lines of stanza x., 127 lines in all, represent the difference between the text as it now stands and the original MS.

In a note to Byron’s Poetical Works, 1832, ix. 257, it is stated that the Corsair was begun on the 18th and finished on the 31st of December, 1813. In the Introduction to the Corsair prefixed to the Library Edition, the poem is said to have been composed in ten days, “at the rate of 200 lines a day.” The first page of the MS. is dated “27th of December, 1813,” and the last page “December 31, 1813, January 1, 1814.” It is probable that the composition of the first draft was begun on the 18th and finished on the 27th of December, and that the work of transcription occupied the last five days of the month. Stanza v. of Canto III. reached the publisher on the 6th, and stanzas xvii. and xxiii. on the 11th and 12th of January, 1814.

The First Edition amounted to 1859 lines (the numeration, owing to the inclusion of broken lines, is given as 1863), and falls short of the existing text by the last four lines of stanza xi. It contains the first dedication to Moore, and numbers 100 pages. To the Second Edition, which numbers 108 pages, the following poems were appended:—

To a Lady Weeping.

From the Turkish.

Sonnet to Genevra (“Thine eyes’ blue tenderness,” etc.).

Sonnet to Genevra (“Thy cheek is pale with thought,” etc.).

Inscription on the Monument of a Newfoundland Dog.


These occasional poems were not appended to the Third Edition, which only numbered 100 pages; but they reappeared in the Fourth and subsequent editions.

The Seventh Edition contained four additional lines (the last four of stanza xi.), and a note (unnumbered) to line 226, in defence of the vraisemblance of the Corsair’s misanthropy. The Ninth Edition numbered 112 pages. The additional matter consists of a long note to the last line of the poem (“Linked with one virtue, and a thousand crimes”) on the pirates of Barataria.

Twenty-five thousand copies of the Corsair were sold between January and March, 1814. An Eighth Edition of fifteen hundred copies was printed in March, and sold before the end of the year. A Ninth Edition of three thousand copies was printed in the beginning of 1815.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:51