“Drinking a Dish of Tea With Sapho”:The Sexual Fantasies of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu and Lord Byron

Winch, Alison (2013) “Drinking a Dish of Tea With Sapho”:The Sexual Fantasies of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu and Lord Byron. Women's Writing, 20 (1). pp. 82-99. ISSN 1747-5848

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Byron’s admiration for Lady Mary Wortley Montagu was exceptional in a period when her reputation was still suffering from Alexander Pope’s and Horace Walpole’s virulent misogyny. Byron was fascinated by her and claimed to have read her Turkish Embassy Letters (1763) by the age of 10. His letters reveal an erotic attraction towards this scholarly woman. When he was residing in Venice, he discovered the passionate letters that Montagu had sent to her young Venetian lover over 60 years earlier. These letters reveal a series of performative sexual identities constructed in relation to a lover. This article argues that Byron can be productively read through his alliances with earlier, sexually transgressive literary figures. More specifically, Montagu’s works, as well as her queer ethnomasquerades, were influential in his writing of Don Juan (1819), and also in his creation of a Byronic celebrity persona. For both writers, philhellenist and Orientalist discourses enable possibilities of self-imagining and celebrity spectacle. Montagu’s depictions of passionate travelling and heroic sexuality reveal continuities across the borders of canonized literary periods.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: travel writing, orientalism,eighteenth century,lord byron, lady mary wortley montagu,sexualities,gender
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > School of Art, Media and American Studies
University of East Anglia > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Research Groups > Film, Television and Media
Depositing User: Pure Connector
Date Deposited: 09 Feb 2016 11:00
Last Modified: 23 Jul 2020 23:37
URI: https://ueaeprints.uea.ac.uk/id/eprint/57008
DOI: 10.1080/09699082.2013.754259

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