The Eroticism of Fat Men
Byron worked at his image. He disciplined his tendency to plumpness by vigorous dieting and the use of purgatives. He controlled the uses of his portrait in marketing his poetry, instructing his publisher John Murray to destroy any version of which he disapproved. Theatrically and gleefully, Byron camped it up, hovering malevolently on the edges of the ballroom, sneering at the fashionable waltzers, in the guise of the glamorous malcontent. He made himself available and then retreated. His tendency to depression made him prone to the mood swings that still afflict celebrities, dependent on the signs of adulation yet detesting them.
With false Ambition what had I to do?
Little with love, and least of all with fame!
And yet they came unsought and with me grew,
And made me all which they can make – a Name.
Byron wrote these lines in 1816. The pitiless satirist saw the sardonic humour of his casting as the heartthrob of his age.
Guardian, Saturday 9 November 2002