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George Gordon Byron (22.01.1788 — 19.04.1824) — English writer and poet.
George Gordon Byron, who is often referred to as Lord, was a prominent English writer, poet and aristocrat. One of his most renowned characters was Child Harold — his alter ego, who became the prototype of numerous other heroes in European literature. That’s why even after Byron’s death his books were highly-demanded.
The well-known writer was born on January 22nd in 1788 in London. However, his mother soon got divorced and moved with little George to Scotland where her relatives lived. From the very childhood Byron suffered from physical disability, which influenced greatly his life. His right foot was deformed which caused him a limp that resulted in lifelong misery. That’s why he had quite a difficult personality and hysterical character.
In fact, even having such physical disabilities, he voluntarily took part in the Greek War of Independence and therefore was considered a national hero of Greece. Already when the poet was eighteen his first book was published but under a different name. It was a vast collection of poems which he soon refilled with over a hundred of new rhymes and published this time under his own name.
His next book, released in 1809, received a wide response. The same year he left England, as the sum of his debts dramatically increased, and started exploring Europe. Byron visited Spain, Greece, Albania and some other countries. His exciting journey lasted for two years and that was the time when he started working on his successful poem “Child Harold’s Pilgrimage”.
He returned from the trip in 1811 and year later his poem was published. That was the turning point in his career. He suddenly woke up famous. It was an innovative poem in many ways with a new type of literary character in all-European literature. Since then his creative life was rather rich. The new poems and tales in verse were released, among them “The Giaour”, “Hebrew Melodies” etc.
In 1815 Byron married to Anabella Milbenk, who gave birth to his daughter a year later. However this marriage didn’t last; the couple soon divorced. In 1816 he left his native England and moved first to Geneva, then to Venice. The poet led as many would have said an immoral life. At the same time he continued writing new verses: the fourth song of “Child Harold”, the first parts of “Don Giovanni”, “Ode on Venice”, etc.
In April 1819 he met a woman who became his lifelong love. Her name was Countess T. Guiccioli. Although they often moved from one city to another, Byron’s creativity was on high level. During that period he wrote “Cain” (the play, 1820), “The Bronze Age” (1823). In 1820 he joined the movement of Italian Carbonari and in 1823 enthusiastically participated in the struggle for liberty held in Greece.
He spent all his money, possessions and talent to help the local population to gain freedom. In 1823 he fell seriously ill and a year later the great poet died. He tried to get as much as possible out of his life and he always looked for new adventures and experiences. G. G. Byron was buried in Newstead.
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Lord Byron was a British Romantic poet and satirist whose poetry and personality captured the imagination of Europe. Although made famous by the autobiographical poem Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage (1812–18)—and his many love affairs—he is perhaps better known today for the satiric realism of Don Juan (1819–24).
George Gordon Byron was born in 1788, the son of British Capt. John (“Mad Jack”) Byron and Catherine Gordon, a Scottish heiress. After John squandered most of her fortune, she and her son lived on a meagre income in Scotland. In 1789 George unexpectedly inherited the title and estates of his great-uncle.
Although handsome, Lord Byron was born with a clubfoot that made him sensitive about his appearance all his life. However, this did not stop him from having numerous affairs with men and women, and his lovers allegedly included his half-sister. Adventurous, he frequently traveled, and he was unconventional; he had a pet bear at college.
Aiding the Greeks in their struggle for independence from Turkish rule, Lord Byron took command of a brigade of Souliot soldiers in early 1824. However, he was weakened by serious illness in February and contracted a fever in April, likely worsened by bloodletting, a then-common treatment. Byron died on April 19 at age 36.
Lord Byron, in full George Gordon Byron, 6th Baron Byron, (born January 22, 1788, London, England—died April 19, 1824, Missolonghi, Greece), British Romantic poet and satirist whose poetry and personality captured the imagination of Europe. Renowned as the “gloomy egoist” of his autobiographical poem Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage (1812–18) in the 19th century, he is now more generally esteemed for the satiric realism of Don Juan (1819–24).
Life and career
Byron was the son of the handsome and profligate Captain John (“Mad Jack”) Byron and his second wife, Catherine Gordon, a Scots heiress. After her husband had squandered most of her fortune, Mrs. Byron took her infant son to Aberdeen, Scotland, where they lived in lodgings on a meagre income; the captain died in France in 1791. George Gordon Byron had been born with a clubfoot and early developed an extreme sensitivity to his lameness. In 1798, at age 10, he unexpectedly inherited the title and estates of his great-uncle William, the 5th Baron Byron. His mother proudly took him to England, where the boy fell in love with the ghostly halls and spacious ruins of Newstead Abbey, which had been presented to the Byrons by Henry VIII. After living at Newstead for a while, Byron was sent to school in London, and in 1801 he went to Harrow, one of England’s most prestigious schools. In 1803 he fell in love with his distant cousin, Mary Chaworth, who was older and already engaged, and when she rejected him she became the symbol for Byron of idealized and unattainable love. He probably met Augusta Byron, his half sister from his father’s first marriage, that same year.
In 1805 Byron entered Trinity College, Cambridge, where he piled up debts at an alarming rate and indulged in the conventional vices of undergraduates there. The signs of his incipient sexual ambivalence became more pronounced in what he later described as “a violent, though pure, love and passion” for a young chorister, John Edleston. Alongside Byron’s strong attachment to boys, often idealized as in the case of Edleston, his attachment to women throughout his life is an indication of the strength of his heterosexual drive. In 1806 Byron had his early poems privately printed in a volume entitled Fugitive Pieces, and that same year he formed at Trinity what was to be a close, lifelong friendship with John Cam Hobhouse, who stirred his interest in liberal Whiggism.
Byron’s first published volume of poetry, Hours of Idleness, appeared in 1807. A sarcastic critique of the book in The Edinburgh Review provoked his retaliation in 1809 with a couplet satire, English Bards and Scotch Reviewers, in which he attacked the contemporary literary scene. This work gained him his first recognition.
On reaching his majority in 1809, Byron took his seat in the House of Lords, and then embarked with Hobhouse on a grand tour. They sailed to Lisbon, crossed Spain, and proceeded by Gibraltar and Malta to Greece, where they ventured inland to Ioánnina and to Tepelene in Albania. In Greece Byron began Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, which he continued in Athens. In March 1810 he sailed with Hobhouse for Constantinople (now Istanbul, Turkey), visited the site of Troy, and swam the Hellespont (present-day Dardanelles) in imitation of Leander. Byron’s sojourn in Greece made a lasting impression on him. The Greeks’ free and open frankness contrasted strongly with English reserve and hypocrisy and served to broaden his views of men and manners. He delighted in the sunshine and the moral tolerance of the people.
Byron arrived back in London in July 1811, and his mother died before he could reach her at Newstead. In February 1812 he made his first speech in the House of Lords, a humanitarian plea opposing harsh Tory measures against riotous Nottingham weavers. At the beginning of March, the first two cantos of Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage were published by John Murray, and Byron “woke to find himself famous.” The poem describes the travels and reflections of a young man who, disillusioned with a life of pleasure and revelry, looks for distraction in foreign lands. Besides furnishing a travelogue of Byron’s own wanderings through the Mediterranean, the first two cantos express the melancholy and disillusionment felt by a generation weary of the wars of the post-Revolutionary and Napoleonic eras. In the poem Byron reflects upon the vanity of ambition, the transitory nature of pleasure, and the futility of the search for perfection in the course of a “pilgrimage” through Portugal, Spain, Albania, and Greece. In the wake of Childe Harold’s enormous popularity, Byron was lionized in Whig society. The handsome poet was swept into a liaison with the passionate and eccentric Lady Caroline Lamb, and the scandal of an elopement was barely prevented by his friend Hobhouse. She was succeeded as his lover by Lady Oxford, who encouraged Byron’s radicalism.
During the summer of 1813, Byron apparently entered into intimate relations with his half sister Augusta, now married to Colonel George Leigh. He then carried on a flirtation with Lady Frances Webster as a diversion from this dangerous liaison. The agitations of these two love affairs and the sense of mingled guilt and exultation they aroused in Byron are reflected in the series of gloomy and remorseful Oriental verse tales he wrote at this time: The Giaour (1813); The Bride of Abydos (1813); The Corsair (1814), which sold 10,000 copies on the day of publication; and Lara (1814).
Seeking to escape his love affairs in marriage, Byron proposed in September 1814 to Anne Isabella (Annabella) Milbanke. The marriage took place in January 1815, and Lady Byron gave birth to a daughter, Augusta Ada, in December 1815. From the start the marriage was doomed by the gulf between Byron and his unimaginative and humorless wife; and in January 1816 Annabella left Byron to live with her parents, amid swirling rumours centring on his relations with Augusta Leigh and his bisexuality. The couple obtained a legal separation. Wounded by the general moral indignation directed at him, Byron went abroad in April 1816, never to return to England.
Byron sailed up the Rhine River into Switzerland and settled at Geneva, near Percy Bysshe Shelley and Mary Godwin (soon to be Mary Shelley), who had eloped and were living with Claire Clairmont, Godwin’s half sister. (Byron had begun an affair with Clairmont in England.) In Geneva he wrote the third canto of Childe Harold (1816), which follows Harold from Belgium up the Rhine River to Switzerland. It memorably evokes the historical associations of each place Harold visits, giving pictures of the Battle of Waterloo (whose site Byron visited), of Napoleon and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and of the Swiss mountains and lakes, in verse that expresses both the most aspiring and most melancholy moods. A visit to the Bernese Oberland provided the scenery for the Faustian poetic drama Manfred (1817), whose protagonist reflects Byron’s own brooding sense of guilt and the wider frustrations of the Romantic spirit doomed by the reflection that man is “half dust, half deity, alike unfit to sink or soar.”
At the end of the summer the Shelley party left for England, where Clairmont gave birth to Byron’s daughter Allegra in January 1817. In October Byron and Hobhouse departed for Italy. They stopped in Venice, where Byron enjoyed the relaxed customs and morals of the Italians and carried on a love affair with Marianna Segati, his landlord’s wife. In May he joined Hobhouse in Rome, gathering impressions that he recorded in a fourth canto of Childe Harold (1818). He also wrote Beppo, a poem in ottava rima that satirically contrasts Italian with English manners in the story of a Venetian menage-à-trois. Back in Venice, Margarita Cogni, a baker’s wife, replaced Segati as his mistress, and his descriptions of the vagaries of this “gentle tigress” are among the most entertaining passages in his letters describing life in Italy. The sale of Newstead Abbey in the autumn of 1818 for £94,500 cleared Byron of his debts, which had risen to £34,000, and left him with a generous income.
In the light, mock-heroic style of Beppo Byron found the form in which he would write his greatest poem, Don Juan, a satire in the form of a picaresque verse tale. The first two cantos of Don Juan were begun in 1818 and published in July 1819. Byron transformed the legendary libertine Don Juan into an unsophisticated, innocent young man who, though he delightedly succumbs to the beautiful women who pursue him, remains a rational norm against which to view the absurdities and irrationalities of the world. Upon being sent abroad by his mother from his native Sevilla (Seville), Juan survives a shipwreck en route and is cast up on a Greek island, whence he is sold into slavery in Constantinople. He escapes to the Russian army, participates gallantly in the Russians’ siege of Ismail, and is sent to St. Petersburg, where he wins the favour of the empress Catherine the Great and is sent by her on a diplomatic mission to England. The poem’s story, however, remains merely a peg on which Byron could hang a witty and satirical social commentary. His most consistent targets are, first, the hypocrisy and cant underlying various social and sexual conventions, and, second, the vain ambitions and pretenses of poets, lovers, generals, rulers, and humanity in general. Don Juan remains unfinished; Byron completed 16 cantos and had begun the 17th before his own illness and death. In Don Juan he was able to free himself from the excessive melancholy of Childe Harold and reveal other sides of his character and personality—his satiric wit and his unique view of the comic rather than the tragic discrepancy between reality and appearance.
Shelley and other visitors in 1818 found Byron grown fat, with hair long and turning gray, looking older than his years, and sunk in sexual promiscuity. But a chance meeting with Countess Teresa Gamba Guiccioli, who was only 19 years old and married to a man nearly three times her age, reenergized Byron and changed the course of his life. Byron followed her to Ravenna, and she later accompanied him back to Venice. Byron returned to Ravenna in January 1820 as her cavalier servente (gentleman-in-waiting) and won the friendship of her father and brother, Counts Ruggero and Pietro Gamba, who initiated him into the secret society of the Carbonari and its revolutionary aims to free Italy from Austrian rule. In Ravenna Byron wrote The Prophecy of Dante; cantos III, IV, and V of Don Juan; the poetic dramas Marino Faliero, Sardanapalus, The Two Foscari, and Cain (all published in 1821); and a satire on the poet Robert Southey, The Vision of Judgment, which contains a devastating parody of that poet laureate’s fulsome eulogy of King George III.
Byron arrived in Pisa in November 1821, having followed Teresa and the Counts Gamba there after the latter had been expelled from Ravenna for taking part in an abortive uprising. He left his daughter Allegra, who had been sent to him by her mother, to be educated in a convent near Ravenna, where she died the following April. In Pisa Byron again became associated with Shelley, and in early summer of 1822 Byron went to Leghorn (Livorno), where he rented a villa not far from the sea. There in July the poet and essayist Leigh Hunt arrived from England to help Shelley and Byron edit a radical journal, The Liberal. Byron returned to Pisa and housed Hunt and his family in his villa. Despite the drowning of Shelley on July 8, the periodical went forward, and its first number contained The Vision of Judgment. At the end of September Byron moved to Genoa, where Teresa’s family had found asylum.
Byron’s interest in the periodical gradually waned, but he continued to support Hunt and to give manuscripts to The Liberal. After a quarrel with his publisher, John Murray, Byron gave all his later work, including cantos VI to XVI of Don Juan (1823–24), to Leigh Hunt’s brother John, publisher of The Liberal.
By this time Byron was in search of new adventure. In April 1823 he agreed to act as agent of the London Committee, which had been formed to aid the Greeks in their struggle for independence from Turkish rule. In July 1823 Byron left Genoa for Cephalonia. He sent £4,000 of his own money to prepare the Greek fleet for sea service and then sailed for Missolonghi on December 29 to join Prince Aléxandros Mavrokordátos, leader of the forces in western Greece.
Byron made efforts to unite the various Greek factions and took personal command of a brigade of Souliot soldiers, reputedly the bravest of the Greeks. But a serious illness in February 1824 weakened him, and in April he contracted the fever from which he died at Missolonghi on April 19. Deeply mourned, he became a symbol of disinterested patriotism and a Greek national hero. His body was brought back to England and, refused burial in Westminster Abbey, was placed in the family vault near Newstead. Ironically, 145 years after his death, a memorial to Byron was finally placed on the floor of the Abbey.
Who Was Lord Byron?
Lord Byron was one of the leading figures of the Romantic Movement in early 19th century England. The notoriety of his sexual escapades is surpassed only by the beauty and brilliance of his writings. After leading an unconventional lifestyle and producing a massive amount of emotionally stirring literary works, Byron died at a young age in Greece pursuing romantic adventures of heroism.
Early Life & Early Poems
Born George Gordon Byron (he later added «Noel» to his name) on January 22, 1788, Lord Byron was the sixth Baron Byron of a rapidly fading aristocratic family. A clubfoot from birth left him self-conscious most of his life. As a boy, young George endured a father who abandoned him, a schizophrenic mother and a nurse who abused him. As a result he lacked discipline and a sense of moderation, traits he held on to his entire life.
In 1798, at age 10, George inherited the title of his great-uncle, William Byron, and was officially recognized as Lord Byron. Two years later, he attended Harrow School in London, where he experienced his first sexual encounters with males and females. In 1803, Byron fell deeply in love with his distant cousin, Mary Chaworth, and this unrequited passion found expression in several poems, including «Hills of Annesley» and «The Adieu.»
From 1805 to 1808, Byron attended Trinity College intermittently, engaged in many sexual escapades and fell deep into debt. During this time, he found diversion from school and partying with boxing, horse riding and gambling. In June 1807, he formed an enduring friendship with John Cam Hobhouse and was initiated into liberal politics, joining the Cambridge Whig Club.
‘English Bards and Scotch Reviewers’
After receiving a scathing review of his first volume of poetry, Hours of Idleness, in 1808, Byron retaliated with the satirical poem «English Bards and Scotch Reviewers.» The poem attacked the literary community with wit and satire, and gained him his first literary recognition. Upon turning 21, Byron took his seat in the House of Lords. A year later, with John Hobhouse, he embarked on a grand tour through the Mediterranean and Aegean seas, visiting Portugal, Spain, Malta, Albania, Greece and Turkey.
‘Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage’
It was during his journey, filled with inspiration, he began writing «Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage,» a poem of a young man’s reflections on travel in foreign lands.
Love Affairs & More Poems
In July 1811, Byron returned to London after the death of his mother, and in spite of all her failings, her passing plunged him into a deep mourning. High praise by London society pulled him out of his doldrums, as did a series of love affairs, first with the passionate and eccentric Lady Caroline Lamb, who described Byron as «mad, bad and dangerous to know,» and then with Lady Oxford, who encouraged Byron’s radicalism. Then, in the summer of 1813, Byron apparently entered into an intimate relationship with his half sister, Augusta, now married. The tumult and guilt he experienced as a result of these love affairs were reflected in a series of dark and repentant poems, «The Giaour,» «The Bride of Abydos» and «The Corsair.»
In September 1814, seeking to escape the pressures of his amorous entanglements, Byron proposed to the educated and intellectual Anne Isabella Milbanke (also known as Annabella Milbanke). They married in January 1815, and in December of that year, their daughter, Augusta Ada, better known as Ada Lovelace, was born. However, by January the ill-fated union crumbled, and Annabella left Byron amid his drinking, increased debt and rumors of his relations with his half sister and of his bisexuality. He never saw his wife or daughter again.
In April 1816, Byron left England, never to return. He traveled to Geneva, Switzerland, befriending Percy Bysshe Shelley, his wife Mary and her stepsister, Claire Clairmont. While in Geneva, Byron wrote the third canto to «Childe Harold,» depicting his travels from Belgium up the Rhine to Switzerland. On a trip to the Bernese Oberland, Byron was inspired to write the Faustian poetic-drama Manfred. By the end of that summer the Shelleys departed for England, where Claire gave birth to Byron’s daughter Allegra in January 1817.
In October 1816, Byron and John Hobhouse sailed for Italy. Along the way he continued his lustful ways with several women and portrayed these experiences in his greatest poem, «Don Juan.» The poem was a witty and satirical change from the melancholy of «Childe Harold» and revealed other sides of Byron’s personality. He would go on to write 16 cantos before his death and leave the poem unfinished.
By 1818, Byron’s life of debauchery had aged him well beyond his 30 years. He then met 19-year-old Teresa Guiccioli, a married countess. The pair were immediately attracted to each other and carried on an unconsummated relationship until she separated from her husband. Byron soon won the admiration of Teresa’s father, who had him initiated into the secret Carbonari society dedicated to freeing Italy from Austrian rule. Between 1821 and 1822, Byron edited the society’s short-lived newspaper, The Liberal.
Last Heroic Adventure
In 1823 a restless Byron accepted an invitation to support Greek independence from the Ottoman Empire. Byron spent 4,000 pounds of his own money to refit the Greek naval fleet and took personal command of a Greek unit of elite fighters. On February 15, 1824, he fell ill. Doctors bled him, which weakened his condition further and likely gave him an infection.
Byron died on April 19, 1824, at age 36. He was deeply mourned in England and became a hero in Greece. His body was brought back to England, but the clergy refused to bury him at Westminster Abbey, as was the custom for individuals of great stature. Instead, he was buried in the family vault near Newstead. In 1969, a memorial to Byron was finally placed on the floor of Westminster Abbey.