Lord Byron's Novel: The Evening Land

Lord Byron's Novel: The Evening Land

by John Crowley


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One of our most accomplished literary artists, John Crowley imagines the novel the haunted Romantic poet Lord Byron never penned ...but very well might have. Saved from destruction, read, and annotated by Byron's own abandoned daughter, Ada, the manuscript is rediscovered in our time — and almost not recognized. Lord Byron's Novel is the story of a dying daughter's attempt to understand the famous father she longed for — and the young woman who, by learning the secret of Byron's manuscript and Ada's devotion, reconnects with her own father, driven from her life by a crime as terrible as any of which Byron himself was accused.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780060556594
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 07/03/2006
Series: P.S. Series
Edition description: ANN
Pages: 496
Product dimensions: 5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 1.13(d)

About the Author

John Crowley lives in the hills of northern Massachusetts with his wife and twin daughters. He is the author of ten previous novels as well as the short fiction collection, Novelties & Souvenirs.

Read an Excerpt

Lord Byron's Novel

The Evening Land
By John Crowley

William Morrow

ISBN: 0-06-055658-7

Chapter One

Observe - but no! No one may observe, save the unfeeling Moon, who sails without progress through the clouds - a young Lord, who on the ramparts of his half-ruined habitation keeps a late watch. Wrapt in a Scotch mantle little different from that worn in all times by his ancestors - and not on the Scotch side alone - he has a light sword buckled on, a curved and bejewelled one not of this northern land's manufacture. He has two pocket pistols as well, made by Mantons - for this is a year in the present century, tho' what the youth may see in the moon's light is much as it has been for these past seven or eight. There is the old battlement that faces to the North, whereon he stands, whose stones he rests his hand upon. Beyond, he sees the stony cliff, bearded in gorse and heather, that builds toward the mountains, and - for his eye is preternaturally sharp - the thread of a track that for aye has ascended it. Black against the tumbled sky is the top of a farther watchtower, reached by that selfsame track. Farther on, in the darkness, lie a thousand acres of Caledonian wilds and habitations: to which this outwatching youth is heir. His name, the reader will perhaps not expect to hear, is Ali.

Against what enemy does he go armed? In truth he knows of none - not his servants asleep in the hall below - not bandits, or rivals of his clan and the Laird his father, such as might once have threatened from the dark.

The Laird his father! The reader will remember the man, if the reader be one who listens to tales in London theatre-boxes, or frequents race-courses, or hells; if he have haunted Supper-clubs, or places with less euphuistical names; known Courts, or Law-courts. John Porteous - who inherited, on the death of his own amazed and helpless sire, the singularly inappropriate title Lord Sane - was a catalogue of sins, not only the lesser ones of Lust and Gluttony but the greater ones of Pride, Anger and Envy. He wasted his own substance, and when it was gone wasted that of his wife and tenants, and then borrowed, or coerced, more from his terrified acquaintanceship, who knew well enough that the Lord would stint at nothing in revealing their own indiscretions, to which often as not he had tempted them in decades past. 'Black-mail' was a word he professed to shudder at: he never, he said, employed the mails. What he spent these gains upon, however got, seemed less of interest to him than the expenditure itself; he was always ready to tear down what he contrived to possess, just in the moment of possession. It was just such an outrageous act of destruction that had earned him the sobriquet, in a time that liked to bestow such, of 'Satan'. He was a wicked man, and he took a devilish delight in it - when he was not in his rage, or maddened by some obstacle to his desire; indeed a fine fellow, in his way, and of a large circle. He had travelled extensively, seen the Porte, walked beneath the Pyramids, sired (it was said without proof) litters of dark-skinned pups in various corners of the South and East.

Of late 'Satan' Porteous has kept much to his wife's Scotch estates, which he has improved and despoiled in equal measure. Onto the ancient towers and battlements and the ruined chapel a former Laird added a Palladian wing of great size and bleak aspect, ruining himself in the process; there the present Laird kept Lady Sane, well out of the fashionable world and indeed out of the world entire. She is rumoured to have gone mad, and as far as Lord Sane's heir knew of her, she is not all of sound mind. The lady's fortune 'Satan' ran through long before - then when he had need of funds, he squeezed his tenants, and sold the timber on his parks and grounds to be cut, which increased the melancholy sense of ruination there far more than did the windowless chapel open to the owl and the fox. The trees grew a hundred years; the money's already spent. He keeps a tame bear, and an American lynx, and he stands them by him when he calls his son before him.

Yes, it is he, his father, Lord Sane, of whom Ali is afraid, though the man is this night nowhere nearby - with his own eyes Ali saw his Lordship's coach depart for the South, four blacks pulling with all their strength as the coachman lashed them. Yet he is afraid, as afraid as he is brave; his very being seems to him but a candle- flame, and as easily put out.

The Moon was past midheaven when, shivering tho' not from cold, Ali retired. His great Newfoundland dog Warden lay by his bed, so fast asleep he hardly roused at his master's familiar tread. Oldest, and only true, friend! Ali pressed for a moment his face into the dog's neck. He then drank the last of a cup of wine, into which a minim of Kendals drops were dropt. Nevertheless he did not undress - only wrapt his mantle close about him, his pistols within reach - propped his watchful head upon cold pillows - and - believing he would not sleep - he slept.

In deep darkness he woke, feeling upon him a heavy hand. He was one quick to wake, and might have leapt up, taking up the pistol near at hand - but he did not - he lay as motionless as though still asleep, for the face that looked into his, tho' known to him, was not a man's. A black face, the eyes small and yellow, and the little light shone upon teeth as long as daggers. It was his father's tame bear, the hand upon him its hand!


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Lord Byron's Novel: The Evening Land 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
harstan More than 1 year ago
Lord Byron, Mary Shelley, and Percy Bysche Shelley were enjoying each other¿s company in Byron's Swiss villa while it stormed outside. Pondering the writing talent and the gloomy weather, Mary challenges her host and her spouse to ¿compete¿ with her in writing a ghost story. Everyone knows that Mary wrote Frankenstein while assuming that Byron, feeling out of his ¿romantic¿ lane, gave up the ghost..................... Instead Byron's cryptographic genius daughter Ada finds her father¿s manuscript and re-scribes it in code so her mother who loathes her father does not destroy it. Over a century later, working on a web site that focuses on women in the sciences, Alexandra Novak conducts research into Ada, who worked with renowned nineteenth century mathematician Charles Babbage, when she finds the code book of Byron¿s novel, The Evening Land. Knowing her estrange father, a Byron expert, would delight in her find, Alexandra breaks the code to read the tale of Ali, illegitimate offspring of Lord 'Satan' Sane and a wife of a Bey whose father found him as a preteen and took him back to England where the kid¿s adventures in a gothic environs begin............... John Crowley provides a brilliant tale told in two major parts in the nineteenth century and today. The genius of the novel is the novel within, The Evening Land in which Mr. Crowley uses Byron's writing style to create the work that the late author most likely never completed in spite of the myth of lost manuscripts. Unique, refreshing and entertaining, readers will appreciate this fabulous fictionalized account to include the inner novel that many will believe is the genuine article....................... Harriet Klausner
Guest More than 1 year ago
Crowley's skill definitely shines in his latest novel. Crisscrossing narrators and centuries, he weaves together a series of interconnected tales that come together into a single powerful story. Many other authors wouldn't even attempt something so complex and daring, and few who did try it could make it work as well as Crowley does. The book is not for reading while the baseball game is on the radio, it requires the reader¿s full attention ¿ but the reader will be rewarded.
timjones on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A novel with three levels: Byron's putative novel "The Evening Land"; notes on the "novel" by his daughter, and pioneer computer programmer, Ada Augusta's; and email correspondence between three present-day researchers as they piece together "The Evening Land" and the story of its creation and transmission. I found Byron's novel, and Ada's notes, fascinating: John Crowley is a wonderful writer, and proves as effective at pastiche of Byron as he is writing in his usual style. The only thing that stops me giving this novel five stars is that I didn't find the present-day, outer framing story as compelling as the two inner stories. Still highly recommended, however.
trinibaby9 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I thought that this was an interesting experiment. At the outset I found it a little difficult to read but I did keep with it and was glad I did in the end. The combination of the two stories never quite meld properly but it really is a good attempt. If you are a fan of Byron it is probably worth the read. For someone who is not familiar with Byron ot his works this one may be a little difficult to grasp.
sheherazahde on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a story within a story within a story. One level is a novel, the next level is footnote anotations to the novel, the third level is the correspondence of the people involved in discovering and decoded the encrypted novel. At it's heart is the 'lost' novel by Lord Byron. It is a fictionalized autobiography of Byron in the form of Ali, the half-Albanian son of a Lord Sane. The next level is the actual story of Lord Byron, his wife, and their daughter, Ada Byron Countess of Lovelace, told through Ada's footnotes on her father's novel and the commentary of the modern academics. The most modern shell is the story of Alexandra "Smith" Novak, the young academic who discovers the manuscript, and her relationship with her estranged father, told through her emails and letters with her lover, her father, her mother, and her employer. Lord Byron's novel fictionalizes his story of his relationship with his wife and daughter. Ada Lovelace's footnotes to her father's novel, and the correspondence between Alexandra Novak and her father Lee Novak, inform the reader of the actual relationship between Lord Byron and his family. The story of Alexandra "Smith" Novak and her father shows how Byron's relationship with his daughter could have played out in our modern times. The result is three different versions of a man's relationship with his controlling wife and estranged daughter. Or alternatively a daughter's relationship with her controlling mother and estranged father. I learned a lot about Lord Byron and Ada Lovelace. It is an interesting and literary story.My P.S. edition of the book includes an interview with John Crowley by Nick Gevers:Nick Gevers: Well, Lord Byron's Novel does have many very exciting elements one might associate with genre fiction: the atmosphere of the Oriental fantasy tale; ferocious combat among Albanian clansfolk; an ancient crumbling mansion; a mysterious murder; a zombie rescuer; smugglers; battle scenes; doppelgängers; somnambulant episodes; a global revolutionary brotherhood; and so forth. And a certain "Roony J. Welch" may just be quasi-immortal. . . . Is Lord Byron's novel an any significant sense a work of fantasy?John Crowley: Well, I don't think Byron's novel is--as Ada points out, it may be sensational, wild, and fantastic, but there are no strictly supernatural elements in it. Is mine? I think that if a novel has no whiff at all of the impossible, the fabulous, the inexplicable, or the metaphysical as the Romantics meant the word, then it isn't very realistic, because the real (this, our shared physical and biological) world does have those intimations in it. (When the intimations become certainties you have fantasy.)Everything that Gevers says about the book is true and so is Crowley's reply.
margaretplays on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Crowley beautifully imagines the novel that Byron began (but never finished) the night that Mary Shelley began Frankenstein, then frames it with notes from Byron's estranged daughter Ada AND correspondence between modern-day historians. Wonderfully literate and complex.
Stig_Brantley on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Similar thematically to The Girlhood of Shakespeare's Heroines. Very enjoyable. I found myself slightly less interested in the invented novel than in the contemporary e-mail frame of the story. I had to do some searching to find out what it meant but when I did, I was amused by Crowley's wink to the reader in the final pages.
bcquinnsmom on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Ah, what an exquisite novel! Texts within text, a story from the past parallelling a story from the present, a gothic story in the mix ... what else can you ask for? Would I recommend it? Definitely, but not just to any reader: if you're a fan of Crowley's, yes. If you're a fan of gothic novels, yes. If you are a fan of the text within a text style of reading, yes. If you aren't any of these, probably not. The basis of the novel is that bad-guy Lord Byron (there is so much info on his character out there in cyber space that I'll leave you to find it) did write masses of poetry but never a major work of prose. So when an historian of science, Alexandra Novak (also known as Smith in the novel) comes across a carefully-encrypted cipher purportedly from Ada Lovelace (Byron's daughter), she begins to wonder if indeed what she has is a never-before known novel written by Byron. It seems that Ada was a devotee of Babbage, who invented a system much like today's computer, or its precursor with punch cards, and based on that knowledge, plus the bizarre structure of the cypher and some written notes, Alex and her partner Thea Swann, a mathematician, decode the cypher and what they have is a very strange story, told in gothic tones of Byron's time. Along the way Alex uncovers some of Ada's thoughts about her father, from whom she was estranged early in life, and her discoveries parallel things she finds out about her father, from whom she was also estranged as a child. An excellent novel, and the story within the story kept me reading throughout the day. I highly recommend this one.
bililoquy on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Fantastic book, one of my very favorites--I managed to get my hands on an ARC, devoured it in an evening and a morning. It's a bizarre sort of epistolary novel, sweeping and generous.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago