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Lord Byron

Portrait of Lord Byron by Thomas Phillips
Born George Gordon Byron
22 January 1788(1788-01-22)
London, England
Died 19 April 1824 (aged 36)
Messolonghi, Aetolia-Acarnania, Greece
Occupation Poet, politician
Nationality British
Literary movement Romanticism
Notable work(s) Don Juan, Childe Harold's Pilgrimage
Children Ada Lovelace, Allegra Byron

George Gordon Byron, 6th Baron Byron, later George Gordon Noel, 6th Baron Byron, FRS (22 January 1788 – 19 April 1824), commonly known simply as Lord Byron, was a British poet and a leading figure in Romanticism. Amongst Byron's best-known works are the brief poems She Walks in Beauty, When We Two Parted, and So, we'll go no more a roving, in addition to the narrative poems Childe Harold's Pilgrimage and Don Juan. He is regarded as one of the greatest British poets and remains widely read and influential, both in the English-speaking world and beyond.

Byron's notability rests not only on his writings but also on his life, which featured aristocratic excesses, huge debts, numerous love affairs, and self-imposed exile. He was famously described by Lady Caroline Lamb as "mad, bad and dangerous to know".[1] Byron served as a regional leader of Italy's revolutionary organization, the Carbonari, in its struggle against Austria. He later travelled to fight against the Ottoman Empire in the Greek War of Independence, for which Greeks revere him as a national hero.[2] He died from a fever contracted while in Missolonghi in Greece.

Contents

Early life

Engraving of Byron's father, Captain John "Mad Jack" Byron, date unknown

Byron was born in a house on Holles Street in London. He was the son of Captain John 'Mad Jack' Byron and his second wife, the former Catherine Gordon, heiress of Gight in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. Byron's paternal grandparents were Vice-Admiral The Hon. John 'Foulweather Jack' Byron and Sophia Trevanion.[3] Vice Admiral John Byron had circumnavigated the globe, and was the younger brother of the 5th Baron Byron, known as "the Wicked Lord".

He was christened George Gordon at St Marylebone Parish Church after his maternal grandfather, George Gordon of Gight, a descendant of King James I. This grandfather committed suicide[4] in 1779. Byron's mother Catherine had to sell her land and title to pay her husband's debts. John Byron may have married Catherine for her money[4] and, after squandering it, deserted her.[citation needed] Catherine regularly experienced mood swings and bouts of melancholy.[4]

Catherine Gordon, Byron's mother

Catherine moved back to Scotland shortly afterwards, where she raised her son in Aberdeen.[4] On 21 May 1798, the death of Byron's great-uncle, the "wicked" Lord Byron, made the 10-year-old the 6th Baron Byron, and the young man then inherited both title and estate, Newstead Abbey, in Nottinghamshire, England. His mother proudly took him to England. Byron lived at his estate infrequently, as the Abbey was rented to Lord Grey de Ruthyn, among others, during Byron's adolescence.

In August 1799, Byron entered the school of William Glennie, an Aberdonian in Dulwich.[5] Byron would later say that around this time and beginning when he still lived in Scotland, his governess, May Gray, would come to bed with him at night and "play tricks with his person".[6] According to Byron, this "caused the anticipated melancholy of my thoughts—having anticipated life".[7] Gray was dismissed for allegedly beating Byron when he was 11.[7]

Byron received his early formal education at Aberdeen Grammar School until it was discovered that he had homosexual inclinations[citation needed]. In 1801 he was sent to Harrow, where he remained until July 1805.[4] He represented Harrow during the very first Eton v Harrow cricket match at Lord's in 1805.[8] After school he went on to Trinity College, Cambridge.[9]

Name

The mountain Lochnagar is the subject of one of Byron's poems, in which he reminisces about his childhood

Byron's names changed throughout his life. He was christened "George Gordon Byron" in London. "Gordon" was a baptismal name, not a surname, after his maternal grandfather. In order to claim his wife's estate in Scotland, Byron's father took the additional surname "Gordon", becoming "John Byron Gordon", and he was occasionally styled "John Byron Gordon of Gight". Byron himself used this surname for a time and was registered at school in Aberdeen as "George Byron Gordon". At the age of 10, he inherited the English Barony of Byron, becoming "Lord Byron", and eventually dropped the double surname (though after this point his surname was hidden by his peerage in any event).

When Byron's mother-in-law died, her will required that he change his surname to "Noel" in order to inherit half her estate, and so he obtained a Royal Warrant allowing him to "take and use the surname of Noel only". The Royal Warrant also allowed him to "subscribe the said surname of Noel before all titles of honour", and from that point he signed himself "Noel Byron" (the usual signature of a peer being merely the peerage, in this case simply "Byron"). This was, it was said, so that his signature would become "N.B." which were the initials of one of his heroes, Napoleon Bonaparte. He was also sometimes referred to as "Lord Noel Byron", as if "Noel" were part of his title, and likewise his wife was sometimes called "Lady Noel Byron". Lady Byron eventually succeeded to the Barony of Wentworth, becoming "Lady Wentworth"; her surname before marriage had been "Milbanke".

Early career

While not at school or college, Byron lived with his mother at Burgage Manor in Southwell, Nottinghamshire, in some antagonism.[4] While there, he cultivated friendships with Elizabeth Pigot and her brother, John, with whom he staged two plays for the entertainment of the community.

Byron's house in Southwell, Nottinghamshire

During this time, with the help of Elizabeth Pigot, who copied many of his rough drafts, he was encouraged to write his first volumes of poetry. Fugitive Pieces was printed by Ridge of Newark, which contained poems written when Byron was only 14. However, it was promptly recalled and burned on the advice of his friend, the Reverend Thomas Beecher, on account of its more amorous verses, particularly the poem To Mary.[10] Pieces on Various Occasions, a "miraculously chaste" revision according to Byron, was published after this.[citation needed]

Hours of Idleness, which collected many of the previous poems, along with more recent compositions, was the culminating book. The savage, anonymous criticism this received (now known to be the work of Henry Peter Brougham) in the Edinburgh Review prompted his first major satire,[7] English Bards and Scotch Reviewers (1809). The work so upset some of these critics they challenged Byron to a duel; over time, in subsequent editions, it became a mark of prestige to be the target of Byron's pen.[7]

After his return from his travels, the first two cantos of Childe Harold's Pilgrimage were published in 1812, and were received with acclaim.[11][12] In his own words, "I awoke one morning and found myself famous".[13] He followed up his success with the poem's last two cantos, as well as four equally celebrated Oriental Tales, The Giaour, The Bride of Abydos, The Corsair, and Lara, which established a type of protagonist that came to be known as the Byronic hero.[citation needed] About the same time, he began his intimacy with his future biographer, Thomas Moore.

Personal life

Early love life

A more complete picture of Byron's personal life has been possible only in recent years with the freeing up of the archive of John Murray, Byron's original publishers, which had formerly withheld compromising letters and instructed at least one major biographer (Leslie A. Marchand, 1957) to censor details of his bisexuality.[12]

Byron's first loves included Mary Duff and Margaret Parker, his distant cousins,[7] and Mary Chaworth, whom he met while at Harrow.[4] Byron later wrote that his passion for Duff began when he was "not [yet] eight years old," and was still remembered in 1813.[7] Byron refused to return to Harrow in September 1803 because of his love for Chaworth; his mother wrote, "He has no indisposition that I know of but love, desperate love, the worst of all maladies in my opinion. In short, the boy is distractedly in love with Miss Chaworth."[4] In Byron's later memoirs, "Mary Chaworth is portrayed as the first object of his adult sexual feelings."[14]

Byron returned to Harrow in January 1804,[4] to a more settled period which saw the formation of a circle of emotional involvements with other Harrow boys, which he recalled with great vividness: 'My School friendships were with me passions (for I was always violent).'[15] The most enduring of those was with the John FitzGibbon, 2nd Earl of Clare — four years Byron's junior — whom he was to meet unexpectedly many years later in Italy (1821).[16] His nostalgic poems about his Harrow friendships, 'Childish Recollections' (1806), express a sense of melancholy at the passing of youthful freedoms, even a prescient 'consciousness of sexual differences that may in the end make England untenable to him.'[17]

"Ah! Sure some stronger impulse vibrates here,
Which whispers friendship will be doubly dear
To one, who thus for kindred hearts must roam,
And seek abroad, the love denied at home."

While at Trinity, Byron met and formed a close friendship with the younger John Edleston. About his "protégé" he wrote, "He has been my almost constant associate since October, 1805, when I entered Trinity College. His voice first attracted my attention, his countenance fixed it, and his manners attached me to him for ever." In his memory Byron composed Thyrza, a series of elegies.[18] Byron wore a ring of Edleston's for the 13 years until he died.[18] In later years he described the affair as 'a violent, though pure love and passion'. This however has to be read in the context of hardening public attitudes to homosexuality in England, and the severe sanctions (including public hanging) against convicted or even suspected offenders.[19] The liaison, on the other hand, may well have been 'pure' out of respect for Edleston's innocence, in contrast to the (probably) more sexually overt relations experienced at Harrow School.[20]

Also while at Cambridge he formed lifelong friendships with men such as John Cam Hobhouse and Francis Hodgson, a Fellow at King's College, with whom he corresponded on literary and other matters until the end of his life (including one of the frankest admissions of his earlier feelings for John Edleston, upon Edleston's death in 1811).

First travels to the East

The Byron's Stone in Tepelene, Albania
Teresa Makri in 1870

Byron racked up numerous debts as a young man, due to what his mother termed a "reckless disregard for money".[4] She lived at Newstead during this time, in fear of her son's creditors.[4]

He had planned to spend early 1808 cruising with his cousin George Bettesworth, who was captain of the 32-gun frigate HMS Tartar. Bettesworth's unfortunate death at the Battle of Alvøen in May 1808 made that impossible.

From 1809 to 1811, Byron went on the Grand Tour, then customary for a young nobleman. The Napoleonic Wars forced him to avoid most of Europe, and he instead turned to the Mediterranean. Correspondence among his circle of Cambridge friends also suggests that a key motive was the hope of homosexual experience,[21] and other theories saying that he was worried about a possible dalliance with the married Mary Chatsworth, his former love (the subject of his poem from this time, "To a Lady: On Being Asked My Reason for Quitting England in the Spring").[7] Attraction to the Levant was probably a motive in itself; he had read about the Ottoman and Persian lands as a child, was attracted to Islam (especially Sufi mysticism), and later wrote, “With these countries, and events connected with them, all my really poetical feelings begin and end."[22] He travelled from England over Spain to Albania and spent time at the court of Ali Pasha of Ioannina,[23] and in Athens. For most of the trip, he had a traveling companion in his friend John Cam Hobhouse.

Byron began his trip in Portugal from where he wrote a letter to his friend Mr. Hodgson in which he describes his mastery of the Portuguese language, consisting mainly of swearing and insults. Byron particularly enjoyed his stay in Sintra that is described in Childe Harold's Pilgrimage as "glorious Eden".

While in Athens, Byron met Nicolò Giraud, who became quite close and taught him Italian. It was also presumed that the two had an intimate relationship involving a sexual affair.[24] Byron sent Giraud to school at a monastery in Malta and bequeathed him a sizable sum of seven thousand pounds sterling. The will, however, was later cancelled.[25] In 1810 in Athens Byron wrote Maid of Athens, ere we part for a 12-year-old girl, Teresa Makri [1798-1875], and reportedly offered £ 500 for her. The offer was not accepted.[citation needed]

Byron's travels in the Ottoman Empire confirmed his attachment to things Turkish. His estranged wife would later recall, “He preferred the Turkish opinions, manners and dress in all respects to ours.”[26] The region's homoerotic possibilities particularly entranced him; he later described the Turkish baths of Asia Minor as “marble paradise[s] of sherbet and sodomy”.[27] His Ottoman travels gave him opportunities to pursue his sexual interest in adolescent boys; like John Edlestone, Nicolò Giraud and (during his later stay in Greece in 1824) Lukas Chalandrutsanos were 15 when Byron's attachments to them began.[28] He wrote in Don Juan, "These few short years [between 13 and 16] make wondrous alterations,/ Particularly amongst sun-burnt nations.”[29]

Affairs and scandals

In 1812, Byron embarked on a well-publicized affair with the married Lady Caroline Lamb that shocked the British public.[30] Byron eventually broke off the relationship and moved swiftly on to others (such as that with Lady Oxford), but Lamb never entirely recovered, pursuing him even after he tired of her. She was emotionally disturbed, and lost so much weight that Byron cruelly commented to her mother-in-law, his friend Lady Melbourne, that he was "haunted by a skeleton".[31] She began to call on him at home, sometimes dressed in disguise as a page boy,[30] at a time when such an act could ruin both of them socially. One day, during such a visit, she wrote on a book at his desk, "Remember me!" As a retort, Byron wrote a poem entitled Remember Thee! Remember Thee! which concludes with the line "Thou false to him, thou fiend to me".

As a child, Byron had seen little of his half-sister Augusta Leigh; in adulthood, he formed a close relationship with her that has been interpreted by some as incestuous,[31] and by others as innocent.[7] Augusta (who was married) gave birth on 15 April 1814 to her third daughter, Elizabeth Medora Leigh.

Eventually Byron began to court Lady Caroline's cousin Anne Isabella Milbanke ("Annabella"), who refused his first proposal of marriage but later accepted him. They married at Seaham Hall, County Durham, on 2 January 1815. The marriage proved unhappy. He treated her poorly and showed disappointment at the birth of a daughter (Augusta Ada) rather than a son.[citation needed] On 16 January 1816, Lady Byron left him, taking Ada with her. On 21 April, Byron signed the Deed of Separation. Rumours of marital violence, adultery with actresses, incest with Augusta Leigh, and sodomy were circulated, assisted by a jealous Lady Caroline.[31] In a letter, Augusta quoted him as saying: "Even to have such a thing said is utter destruction and ruin to a man from which he can never recover."

Later years

After this break-up of his domestic life, Byron again left England, but it was forever, as it turned out. He passed through Belgium and continued up the Rhine River. In the summer of 1816 he settled at the Villa Diodati by Lake Geneva, Switzerland, with his personal physician, the young, brilliant, and handsome John William Polidori. There Byron befriended the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, and Shelley's future wife Mary Godwin. He was also joined by Mary's stepsister, Claire Clairmont, with whom he had had an affair in London. Byron initially refused to have anything to do with Claire, and would only agree to remain in her presence with the Shelleys, who eventually persuaded Byron to accept and provide for Allegra, the child she bore him in January 1817.[citation needed]

Frontispiece to a c. 1825 edition of Childe Harold's Pilgrimage

Kept indoors at the Villa Diodati by the "incessant rain" of "that wet, ungenial summer" over three days in June, the five turned to reading fantastical stories, including Fantasmagoriana, and then devising their own tales. Mary Shelley produced what would become Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus, and Polidori was inspired by a fragmentary story of Byron's to produce The Vampyre, the progenitor of the romantic vampire genre.[citation needed] Byron's story fragment was published as a postscript to Mazeppa; he also wrote the third canto of Childe Harold. Byron wintered in Venice, pausing his travels when he fell in love with Marianna Segati, in whose Venice house he was lodging, and who was soon replaced by 22-year-old Margarita Cogni; both women were married.[32] Cogni could not read or write, and she left her husband to move into Byron's Venice house.[32] Their fighting often caused Byron to spend the night in his gondola; when he asked her to leave the house, she threw herself into the Venetian canal.[32]

In 1817, he journeyed to Rome. On returning to Venice, he wrote the fourth canto of Childe Harold. About the same time, he sold Newstead and published Manfred, Cain and The Deformed Transformed. The first five cantos of Don Juan were written between 1818 and 1820, during which period he made the acquaintance of the young Countess Guiccioli, who found her first love in Byron, who in turn asked her to elope with him.[32] It was about this time that he received a visit from Thomas Moore, to whom he confided his autobiography or "life and adventures", which Moore, Hobhouse, and Byron's publisher, John Murray,[32] burned in 1824, a month after Byron's death.[12]

Children

Byron had a child, The Hon. Augusta Ada Byron ("Ada", later Countess of Lovelace), in 1815 with Annabella Byron, Lady Byron (née Anne Isabella Milbanke, or "Annabella"), later Lady Wentworth. Ada Lovelace, notable in her own right, collaborated with Charles Babbage on the analytical engine, a predecessor to modern computers.

He also had an illegitimate child in 1817, Clara Allegra Byron, with Claire Clairmont, stepsister of Mary Shelley and stepdaughter of Political Justice and Caleb Williams writer, William Godwin.

Allegra is not entitled to the style "The Hon." as is usually given to the daughter of barons, since she was illegitimate. Born in Switzerland in 1817, Allegra lived with Byron for a few months in Venice; he refused to allow an Englishwoman caring for the girl to adopt her, nor for her to be raised in the Shelleys' household.[32] He wished for her to be brought up Catholic and not marry an Englishman.[32] He made arrangements for her to inherit 5,000 lira upon marriage, or when she reached the age of 21, provided she did not marry a native of Britain.[32] However, the girl died aged five of a fever in Bagna Cavallo, Italy while Byron was in Pisa; he was deeply upset by the news.[32] He had Allegra's body sent back to England to be buried at his old school, Harrow, because Protestants could not be buried in consecrated ground in Catholic countries.[32] At one time he himself had wanted to be buried at Harrow. Byron was indifferent towards Allegra's mother, Claire Clairmont.[32]

Although it cannot be proved, some attest that Augusta Leigh's child, Elizabeth Medora Leigh, was fathered by Byron.

It is thought that Lord Byron had a son by a maid he employed at Newstead named Lucy. A letter of his to John Hanson from Newstead Abbey, dated January 17, 1809, refers to the situation: "You will discharge my Cook, & Laundry Maid, the other two I shall retain to take care of the house, more especially as the youngest is pregnant (I need not tell you by whom) and I cannot have the girl on the parish." The letter may be found in many editions of Byron's letters, such as Marchand's 1982 Byron's Letters and Journals. The poem "To My Son" may be about this child; however, the dating gives difficulties; some editors attribute the poem to a date two years earlier than the letter.

Political career

Byron eventually took his seat in the House of Lords in 1811, shortly after his return from the Levant, and made his maiden speech there on 27 February 1812. A strong advocate of social reform, he received particular praise as one of the few Parliamentary defenders of the Luddites: specifically, he was against a death penalty for Luddite "frame breakers" in Nottinghamshire, who destroyed textile machines that were putting them out of work. His first speech before the Lords was loaded with sarcastic references to the "benefits" of automation, which he saw as producing inferior material as well as putting people out of work. He said later that he "spoke very violent sentences with a sort of modest impudence", and thought he came across as "a bit theatrical".[33] In another Parliamentary speech he expressed opposition to the established religion because it was unfair to people of other faiths.[34] These experiences inspired Byron to write political poems such as Song for the Luddites (1816) and The Landlords' Interest, Canto XIV of The Age of Bronze.[35] Examples of poems in which he attacked his political opponents include Wellington: The Best of the Cut-Throats (1819); and The Intellectual Eunuch Castlereagh (1818).[citation needed]

Life abroad

Reasons for his Departure

Ultimately, Byron resolved to escape the censure of British society (due to allegations of sodomy and incest) by living abroad,[12] thereby freeing himself of the need to conceal his sexual interests (MacCarthy pp. 86, 314).[14] Byron left England in 1816 and did not return for the last eight years of his life, even to bury his daughter.[12][32]

The Armenians in Venice

In 1816, Byron visited Saint Lazarus Island in Venice where he acquainted himself with Armenian culture with the help of the abbots belonging to the Mekhitarist Order. With the help of Father H. Avgerian, he learned the Armenian language,[32] and attended many seminars about language and history. He wrote English Grammar and Armenian (Qerakanutyun angghiakan yev hayeren) in 1817, and Armenian Grammar and English (Qerakanutyun hayeren yev angghiakan) in 1819, where he included quotations from classical and modern Armenian. Byron also participated in the compilation of the English Armenian dictionary (Barraran angghieren yev hayeren, 1821) and wrote the preface in which he explained the relationship of the Armenians with and the oppression of the Turkish "pashas" and the Persian satraps, and their struggle of liberation. His two main translations are the Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians, two chapters of Movses Khorenatsi's History of Armenia and sections of Nerses of Lambron's Orations.[36] When in Polis he discovered discrepancies between the Armenian and the English version of the Bible and translated some passages that were either missing or deficient in the English version.[36] His fascination was so great that he even considered a replacement of the Cain story of the Bible with that of the legend of Armenian patriarch Haik.[36] He may be credited with the birth of Armenology and its propagation.[36] His profound lyricism and ideological courage has inspired many Armenian poets, the likes of Ghevond Alishan, Smbat Shahaziz, Hovhannes Tumanyan, Ruben Vorberian and others.[36]

In Italy and Greece

Lord Byron in Albanian dress painted by Thomas Phillips in 1813. This painting can be viewed at the the Venizelos Mansion, which is the British Ambassador's residence in Athens.

From 1821 to 1822, he finished Cantos 6–12 of Don Juan at Pisa, and in the same year he joined with Leigh Hunt and Percy Bysshe Shelley in starting a short-lived newspaper, The Liberal, in the first number of which appeared The Vision of Judgment. His last Italian home was Genoa, where he was still accompanied by the Countess Guiccioli, and where he met Charles John Gardiner, 1st Earl of Blessington, and Marguerite, Countess of Blessington and provided the material for her work Conversations with Lord Byron, an important text in the reception of Byron in the period immediately after his death.

Byron lived in Genoa until 1823, when, growing bored with his life there he accepted overtures for his support from representatives of the movement for Greek independence from the Ottoman Empire.[citation needed] His support for the Greek revolt reflected an abstract passion for liberty more than any special sympathy for the modern Greeks as such; he had complained on his earlier Levantine journey that the Greeks had “all the Turkish vices without their courage”,[37] and written in a note to Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, “The Greeks will never be independent … and God forbid they ever should!”[38] A twist of fate now in his last months made him a hero of modern Greek nationalism. On 16 July, Byron left Genoa on the Hercules, arriving at Kefalonia in the Ionian Islands on 4 August. He spent £4000 of his own money to refit the Greek fleet, then sailed for Messolonghi in western Greece, arriving on 29 December to join Alexandros Mavrokordatos, a Greek politician with military power.[citation needed] Once in Greece he attempted to promote more humane treatment of Turkish civilians and prisoners - the rebels had killed thousands of Muslim noncombatants in 1821 and routinely killed prisoners - but was frustrated by the insurgents' lack of discipline, commenting at one point, “I was a fool to come here”.[39] During this time, Byron pursued his Greek page, Lukas Chalandritsanos, but the affections went unrequited.[12] When the famous Danish sculptor Thorvaldsen heard about Byron's heroics in Greece, he voluntarily resculpted his earlier bust of Byron in Greek marble.[32]

Death

Mavrokordatos and Byron planned to attack the Turkish-held fortress of Lepanto, at the mouth of the Gulf of Corinth. Byron employed a fire-master to prepare artillery and took part of the rebel army under his own command, despite his lack of military experience, but before the expedition could sail, on 15 February 1824, he fell ill, and the usual remedy of bleeding weakened him further.[citation needed] He made a partial recovery, but in early April he caught a violent cold which therapeutic bleeding, insisted on by his doctors, aggravated. It is suspected this treatment, carried out with unsterilized medical instrumentation, may have caused him to develop sepsis. He developed a violent fever, and died on 19 April.[citation needed] It has been said that had Byron lived, he might have been declared King of Greece.[12]

Post mortem

Lord Byron on his deathbed as depicted by Joseph-Denis Odevaere c.1826 Oil on canvas, 166 × 234.5 cm Groeningemuseum, Bruges. (Note the sheet covering his misshapen right foot)

Alfred, Lord Tennyson would later recall the shocked reaction in Britain when word was received of Byron's death.[12] The Greeks mourned Lord Byron deeply, and he became a hero. The national poet of Greece, Dionysios Solomos, wrote a poem about the unexpected loss, named To the Death of Lord Byron.[40] Βύρων ("Vyron"), the Greek form of "Byron", continues in popularity as a masculine name in Greece, and a suburb of Athens is called Vyronas in his honour.

Byron's body was embalmed, but the Greeks wanted some part of their hero to stay with them. According to some sources, his heart remained at Messolonghi.[41] According to others,[citation needed] it was his lungs, which were placed in an urn that was later lost when the city was sacked. His other remains were sent to England for burial in Westminster Abbey, but the Abbey refused for reason of "questionable morality".[12][42] Huge crowds viewed his body as he lay in state for two days in London.[12] He is buried at the Church of St. Mary Magdalene in Hucknall, Nottingham.

At her request, Ada Lovelace, the child he never knew, was buried next to him. In later years, the Abbey allowed a duplicate of a marble slab given by the King of Greece, which is laid directly above Byron's grave. Byron's friends raised the sum of 1,000 pounds to commission a statue of the writer; Thorvaldsen offered to sculpt it for that amount.[32] However, for ten years after the statue was completed in 1834, most British institutions turned it down, and it remained in storage. The statue was refused by the British Museum, St. Paul's Cathedral, Westminster Abbey and the National Gallery.[32] Trinity College, Cambridge, finally placed the statue of Byron in its library.[32]

In 1969, 145 years after Byron's death, a memorial to him was finally placed in Westminster Abbey.[43] The memorial had been lobbied for since 1907; The New York Times wrote, "People are beginning to ask whether this ignoring of Byron is not a thing of which England should be ashamed ... a bust or a tablet might be put in the Poets' Corner and England be relieved of ingratitude toward one of her really great sons."[44]

Robert Ripley had drawn a picture of Boatswain's grave with the caption "Lord Byron's dog has a magnificent tomb while Lord Byron himself has none". This came as a shock to the English, particularly schoolchildren, who, Ripley said, raised funds of their own accord to provide the poet with a suitable memorial. (Source: Ripley's Believe It or Not!, 3rd Series, 1950; p. xvi.)

Upon his death, the barony passed to Byron's cousin George Anson Byron, a career military officer and his polar opposite in temperament and lifestyle.[citation needed]

Poetic works

Byron wrote prolifically.[45] In 1832 his publisher, John Murray, released the complete works in 14 duodecimo volumes, including a life[33] by Thomas Moore. Subsequent editions were released in 17 volumes, first published a year later, in 1833.

Although Byron falls chronologically into the period most commonly associated with Romantic poetry, much of his work looks back to the satiric tradition of Alexander Pope and John Dryden.

Don Juan

Byron's magnum opus, Don Juan, a poem spanning 17 cantos, ranks as one of the most important long poems published in England since John Milton's Paradise Lost.[citation needed] The masterpiece, often called the epic of its time, has roots deep in literary tradition and, although regarded by early Victorians as somewhat shocking, equally involves itself with its own contemporary world at all levels — social, political, literary and ideological.

Byron published the first two cantos anonymously in 1819 after disputes with his regular publisher over the shocking nature of the poetry; by this time, he had been a famous poet for seven years, and when he self-published the beginning cantos, they were well received in some quarters.[11] It was then released volume by volume through his regular publishing house.[11] By 1822, cautious acceptance by the public had turned to outrage, and Byron's publisher refused to continue to publish the works.[11] In Canto III of Don Juan, Byron expresses his detestation for poets such as William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge.[11][46]

Lord Byron (1803), as painted by Marie Louise Élisabeth Vigée-Lebrun

Byronic hero

The figure of the Byronic hero pervades much of his work, and Byron himself is considered to epitomize many of the characteristics of this literary figure.[12] Scholars have traced the literary history of the Byronic hero from John Milton, and many authors and artists of the Romantic movement show Byron's influence during the 19th century and beyond, including Charlotte and Emily Brontë.[12] The Byronic hero presents an idealised, but flawed character whose attributes include[citation needed]: great talent; great passion; a distaste for society and social institutions; a lack of respect for rank and privilege; being thwarted in love by social constraint or death; rebellion; exile; an unsavory secret past; arrogance; overconfidence or lack of foresight; and, ultimately, a self-destructive manner.

Parthenon marbles

Byron was a bitter opponent of Lord Elgin's removal of the Parthenon marbles from Greece, and "reacted with fury" when Elgin's agent gave him a tour of the Parthenon, during which he saw the missing friezes and metopes. He penned a poem, The Curse of Minerva, to denounce Elgin's actions.[47]

Character and description

Lord Byron obtained a reputation as being extravagant, melancholic, courageous,[4] unconventional, eccentric, flamboyant[12] and controversial.[18] He was independent and given to extremes of temper; on at least one trip, his traveling companions were so puzzled by his mood swings they thought he was mentally ill.[4][18] He enjoyed adventure, especially relating to the sea.[4]

He believed his depression was inherited, and he wrote in 1821, "I am not sure that long life is desirable for one of my temper & constitutional depression of Spirits."[18]

Byron was noted even during his time for the extreme loyalty he inspired in his friends.[18] Hobhouse said, "No man lived who had such devoted friends."[18]

The first recorded notable example of open water swimming took place on May 3rd 1810 when Lord Byron swam from Europe To Asia across the Hellespont Straight.[48] This is often seen as the birth of the sport and past time and to commemorate it, the event is recreated every year as an open water swimming event.[49]

Physical description

Byron's adult height was about 5 feet 10 inches (1.78 m), his weight fluctuating between 9.5 stone (133 lb; 60 kg) and 14 stone (200 lb; 89 kg). He was renowned for his personal beauty, which he enhanced by wearing curl-papers in his hair at night.[50] He was athletic, being a competent boxer and horse-rider and an excellent swimmer. At Harrow, he played cricket, although he was unskillful.

From birth, Byron suffered from an unknown deformity of his right foot (generally referred to as a "clubfoot" at the time, though some modern medical experts maintain that it was a consequence of infantile paralysis (poliomyelitis), and others that it was a dysplasia, a failure of the region to form properly),[51] causing a limp that resulted in lifelong misery for him, aggravated by painful and pointless "medical treatment" in his childhood and the suspicion that with proper care it might have been cured.[6] He was extremely self-conscious about this from a young age. However, he refused to wear any type of mechanical device that could improve the limp,[4] although he often wore specially made shoes that would hide the deformed foot.[12]

Byron and other writers such as his friend John Cam Hobhouse left detailed descriptions of his eating habits. At the time he entered Cambridge, he went on a strict diet to control his weight. He also exercised a great deal, and at that time wore a great number of clothes to cause himself to perspire. For most of his life he was a vegetarian, and often lived for days on dry biscuits and white wine. Occasionally he would eat large helpings of meat and desserts, after which he would purge himself. His friend Hobhouse claimed that his weight problem was caused by the pain of his deformed foot which made it difficult for him to exercise.[50]

Celebrity

Byron is considered to be the first modern-style celebrity. His image as the personification of the Byronic hero fascinated the public,[12] and his wife Annabella coined the term "Byromania" to refer to the commotion surrounding him.[12] His self-awareness and personal promotion are seen as a beginning to what would become the modern rock star; he would instruct artists painting portraits of him not to paint him with pen or book in hand, but as a "man of action."[12]

While Byron first welcomed fame, he later turned away from it by going into voluntary exile from Britain.[18]

Fondness for animals

Byron had a great fondness for animals, most notably for a Newfoundland dog named Boatswain; when Boatswain contracted rabies, Byron reportedly nursed him without any fear of becoming bitten and infected.[citation needed] Boatswain lies buried at Newstead Abbey, and has a monument larger than his master's. Byron at one point expressed interest in being buried next to Boatswain.[32] The inscription, Byron's Epitaph to a Dog, has become one of his best-known works, reading in part:[52]

Near this Spot
are deposited the Remains of one
who possessed Beauty without Vanity,
Strength without Insolence,
Courage without Ferocity,
and all the Virtues of Man without his Vices.
This praise, which would be unmeaning Flattery
if inscribed over human Ashes,
is but a just tribute to the Memory of
BOATSWAIN, a DOG,
who was born in Newfoundland May 1803,
and died at Newstead Nov.r 18th, 1808.

Byron also kept a bear while he was a student at Trinity College, Cambridge (reputedly out of resentment of Trinity rules forbidding pet dogs — he later suggested that the bear apply for a college fellowship).[citation needed] At other times in his life, Byron kept a fox, monkeys, a parrot, cats, an eagle, a crow, a crocodile, a falcon, peacocks, guinea hens, an Egyptian crane, a badger, geese, a heron.

Lasting influence

The re-founding of the Byron Society in 1971 reflects the fascination that many people have for Byron and his work.[53] This society has become very active, publishing an annual journal. Today 36 Byron Societies function throughout the world, and an International Conference takes place annually.

Byron exercised a marked influence on Continental literature and art, and his reputation as a poet is higher in many European countries than in Britain or America, although not as high as in his time, when he was widely thought to be the greatest poet in the world.[18] Byron has inspired the works of Franz Liszt, Hector Berlioz, and Giuseppe Verdi.[18]

Fictional depictions

Byron first appeared as a thinly disguised fictional character in his ex-love Lady Caroline Lamb's book Glenarvon, published in 1816.[12]

Byron is the main character of the film Byron by the Greek film maker Nikos Koundouros.

Byron's spirit is one of the title characters of the Ghosts of Albion books by Amber Benson and Christopher Golden. John Crowley's book Lord Byron's Novel: The Evening Land At Night (2005) involves the rediscovery of a lost manuscript by Lord Byron, as does Frederic Prokosch's The Missolonghi Manuscript (1968). Byron appears as a character in Tim Powers's The Stress of Her Regard (1989) and The Anubis Gates (1983), and Walter Jon Williams's novella Wall, Stone Craft (1994), and also in Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell (2004).

Byron is an immortal still alive in modern times, in the television show Highlander: The Series in the fifth season episode The Modern Prometheus, living as a decadent rock star.

Tom Holland, in his 1995 novel The Vampyre: Being the True Pilgrimage of George Gordon, Sixth Lord Byron, romantically describes how Lord Byron became a vampire during his first visit to Greece — a fictional transformation that explains much of his subsequent behaviour towards family and friends, and finds support in quotes from Byron poems and the diaries of John Cam Hobhouse. It is written as though Byron is retelling part of his life to his great great-great-great-granddaughter. He describes traveling in Greece, Italy, Switzerland, meeting Percy Bysshe Shelley, Shelley's death, and many other events in life around that time. The Byron as vampire character returns in the 1996 sequel Supping with Panthers.

Byron and Percy and Mary Shelley are portrayed in Roger Corman's final film Frankenstein Unbound, where the time traveler Dr. Buchanan (played by John Hurt) meets them as well as Victor von Frankenstein (played by Raul Julia).

The Black Drama by Manly Wade Wellman,[54] originally published in Weird Tales, involves the rediscovery and production of a lost play by Byron (from which Polidori's The Vampyre was plagiarised) by a man who purports to be a descendant of the poet.

Tom Stoppard's play Arcadia revolves around a modern researcher's attempts to find out what made Byron leave the country, while Howard Brenton's play Bloody Poetry features Byron alongside Polidori, the Shelleys and Claire Clairmont.

Television portrayals include a major 2003 BBC drama on Byron's life, and minor appearances in Highlander: The Series (as well as the Shelleys), Blackadder the Third, The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy, episode 60 (Darkling) of Star Trek: Voyager, and was also parodied in the animated sketch series, Monkey Dust.

He makes an appearance in the alternative history novel The Difference Engine by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling. In a Britain powered by the massive, steam-driven, mechanical computers invented by Charles Babbage, he is leader of the Industrial Radical Party, eventually becoming Prime Minister.

The events featuring the Shelleys' and Byron's relationship at the house beside Lake Geneva in 1816 have been fictionalized in film at least three times.

  1. A 1986 British production, Gothic, directed by Ken Russell, and starring Gabriel Byrne as Byron.
  2. A 1988 Spanish production, Rowing with the Wind (Remando al viento), starring Hugh Grant as Byron.
  3. A 1988 U.S.A. production Haunted Summer. Adapted by Lewis John Carlino from the speculative novel by Anne Edwards, starring Philip Anglim as Lord Byron.

The brief prologue to Bride of Frankenstein includes Gavin Gordon as Byron, begging Mary Shelley to tell the rest of her Frankenstein story.

The writer and novelist, Benjamin Markovits, is in the process of producing a fictional trilogy about the life of Byron. Imposture (2007) looked at the poet from the point of view of his friend and doctor, John Polidori. A Quiet Adjustment, which came out in January 2008, is an account of Byron's marriage more sympathetic to his wife, Annabella, than many of its predecessors. He is currently writing the third installment.

Byron is portrayed as an immortal in the book, Divine Fire, by Melanie Jackson. Byron is depicted in the book Edward Trencom's Nose by Giles Milton.

In The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy episode "Ecto Cooler", Byron's ghost appears from Billy's mouth, teaching him to be cool.

In the novel The History of Lucy's Love Life in Ten and a Half Chapters, Lucy Lyons uses a time machine to visit 1813 and meet Byron, who is her idol.

Byron is depicted in Tennessee William's play Camino Real.

Byron's life is the subject of the 2003 made for television movie Byron starring Jonny Lee Miller.

Byron is depicted as the villian/antagonist in the novel Jane Bites Back [55] written by Michael Thomas Ford, published by Ballantine Books, 2010. A novel based on the premise that Jane Austen (and Lord Byron) are Vampires living in the modern day literary world.

Musical settings of, or music inspired by, poems by Byron

Byron is the subject of the Warren Zevon song "Lord Byron's Luggage"

Bibliography

Major works

Minor works

See also

References

This article incorporates public domain text from : Cousin, John William (1910). A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature. London, J. M. Dent & Sons; New York, E. P. Dutton.
  1. ^ Castle, Terry (13 April 1997). "'Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know'". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/books/97/04/13/reviews/970413.13castlet.html. Retrieved 2008-11-19. 
  2. ^ Plomer, William (1970) [1936]. The Diamond of Jannina. New York City: Taplinger Publishing. ISBN 978-0224617215. "Byron had yet to die to make philhellenism generally acceptable." 
  3. ^ Boase, George Clement; William Prideaux Courtney (1878). Bibliotheca Cornubiensis: A Catalogue of the Writings of Cornishmen. II. London: Longmans, Green, Reader and Dyer. p. 792. http://books.google.com/books?id=sRYYAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA791#PPA792,M1. Retrieved 2008-11-19. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o "Byron as a Boy; His Mother's Influence — His School Days and Mary Chaworth" (PDF). The New York Times. 26 February 1898. http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?_r=1&res=9E03E3D91638E433A25755C2A9649C94699ED7CF. Retrieved 2008-07-11. 
  5. ^ McGann, Jerome (September 2004). "Byron, George Gordon Noel, sixth Baron Byron (1788–1824)" (fee required). Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/4279. Retrieved 2007-10-01. 
  6. ^ a b Gilmour, Ian (2003). The Making of the Poets: Byron and Shelley in Their Time. Carroll & Graf Publishers. p. 35. ISBN 978-0786712731. http://books.google.com/books?id=tjG-lZOR-dYC. Retrieved 2008-11-19. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h Hoeper, Jeffrey D. (17 December 2002). "The Sodomizing Biographer: Leslie Marchand's Portrait of Byron". Arkansas State University. http://engphil.astate.edu/gallery/marchand.html. Retrieved 2008-07-11. 
  8. ^ Williamson, Martin (18 June 2005). "The oldest fixture of them all: the annual Eton vs Harrow match". Cricinfo Magazine. http://content-uk.cricinfo.com/magazine/content/story/211281.html. Retrieved 2008-07-23. 
  9. ^ Byron [post Noel], George (Gordon), Baron Byron in Venn, J. & J. A., Alumni Cantabrigienses, Cambridge University Press, 10 vols, 1922–1958.
  10. ^ Lord Byron. "To Mary". JGHawaii Publishing Co.. http://readytogoebooks.com/TM-P27.html. Retrieved 2008-11-20. 
  11. ^ a b c d e Stabler, Jane (1999). Duncan Wu. ed. George Gordon, Lord Byron, 'Don Juan'. Blackwell Publishing. pp. 247–257. ISBN 978-0631218777. http://books.google.com/books?id=kJCHB0tqd1kC. Retrieved 2008-07-11. 
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r Bostridge, Mark (3 November 2002). "On the trail of the real Lord Byron". The Independent on Sunday. http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/features/on-the-trail-of-the-real-lord-byron-603280.html. Retrieved 2008-07-22. 
  13. ^ Thomas Moore Letters and Journals of Lord Byron, 1830 vol. 1, cited in The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, ed. Susan Ratcliffe. Oxford University Press, 2006. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press. University of Hull. 4 March 2010 Oxfordreference.com
  14. ^ a b MacCarthy, Fiona (7 Nov 2002). Byron: Life and Legend. John Murray Publishers Ltd. p. 33. ISBN 978-0719556210. 
  15. ^ MacCarthy, p.37
  16. ^ MacCarthy, p.404
  17. ^ MacCarthy, p. 40
  18. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Allen, Brooke (Summer 2003). "Bryon(sic): Revolutionary, libertine and friend". The Hudson Review. http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa4021/is_200307/ai_n9278558/. Retrieved 2008-07-11. 
  19. ^ MacCarthy, p.61
  20. ^ MacCarthy, p.39
  21. ^ Crompton, Louis (1985). Byron and Greek Love: Homophobia in 19th Century England. University of California Press. pp. 123–128. ISBN 978-0520051720. 
  22. ^ Byron Blackstone (Dec. 1974), “Byron and Islam: the triple Eros” (Journal of European Studies vol. 4 no. 4, pp. 325-63); Byron to Moore, 8 March 1816, in Marchand vol. 5, p. 45
  23. ^ Bone, Drummond (2004). The Cambridge Companion to Byron. Cambridge University Press. pp. 110–111. ISBN 978-0521786768. http://books.google.com/books?id=ZtSF3PrMtNoC. Retrieved 2008-11-20. "In fact (as their critics pointed out) both Byron and Hobhouse were to some extent dependent upon information gleaned by the French resident Francois Pouqueville, who had in 1805 published an influential travelogue entitled Voyage en Moree, a Constantinople, en Albanie ... 1798-1801" 
  24. ^ Christensen, Jerome (1993), Lord Byron's Strength, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
  25. ^ MacCarthy, p.135
  26. ^ Malcolm Elwin, Lord Byron’s Wife, Macdonald, 1962, pp. 270-1
  27. ^ Byron to Murray, 12 August 1819, in Marchand vol. 6, p. 207
  28. ^ Crompton (1985), pp. 237-8
  29. ^ Don Juan, Canto I: 69
  30. ^ a b Wong, Ling-Mei (2004-10-14). "Professor to speak about his book, 'Lady Caroline Lamb'". Spartan Daily (San Jose State University). http://media.www.thespartandaily.com/media/storage/paper852/news/2004/10/14/UndefinedSection/Professor.To.Speak.About.His.Book.lady.Caroline.Lamb-1499653.shtml. Retrieved 2008-07-11. 
  31. ^ a b c Marilee Cody (?). "Lord Byron's Lovers: Lady Caroline Lamb". http://englishhistory.net/byron/lclamb.html. Retrieved 2008-11-20. 
  32. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r Elze, Karl Friedrich (1872). Lord Byron, a biography. London: John Murray. http://books.google.com/books?id=kDYBAAAAQAAJ. Retrieved 2008-07-11. 
  33. ^ a b Moore, Thomas (1829). John Wilson Croker. ed. The Life of Lord Byron: With His Letters and Journals. I. John Murray. pp. 154, 676. http://books.google.com/books?hl=en&id=lj5AAAAAMAAJ. Retrieved 2008-11-20. 
  34. ^ Ibid, p. 679.
  35. ^ Lord Byron. "The Age Of Bronze". JGHawaii Publishing Co.. http://readytogoebooks.com/LB-bronze-P80.html. Retrieved 2008-11-20. 
  36. ^ a b c d e (Armenian) Soghomonyan, Soghomon A. «Բայրոն, Ջորջ Նոել Գորդոն» (Byron, George Noel Gordon). Soviet Armenian Encyclopedia. vol. ii. Yerevan, Armenian SSR: Armenian Academy of Sciences, 1976, pp. 266-267.
  37. ^ Byron to Drury, 3 May 1810, in Marchand vol. 1, p. 238
  38. ^ Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, note I to Canto II: 73
  39. ^ Byron to Countess Teresa Guiccioli, [7 Oct.] 1823, Marchand vol. 11, p. 43
  40. ^ Dionysios Solomos. "Εις το Θάνατο του Λόρδου Μπάιρον (Eng., To the Death of Lord Byron)" (in Greek). http://www.sarantakos.com/kibwtos/solwmos_lordbyron.html. Retrieved 2008-11-20. 
  41. ^ "Heart Burial". Time Magazine. 1933-07-31. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,753874,00.html. Retrieved 2008-11-20. 
  42. ^ Mondragon, Brenda C.. Neurotic Poets — Lord Byron "Neurotic Poets: Lord Byron". http://www.neuroticpoets.com/byron/ Neurotic Poets — Lord Byron. Retrieved 2008-11-20. 
  43. ^ "Westminster Abbey Poets' Corner". Dean and Chapter of the Collegiate Church of St. Peter Westminster. http://www.westminster-abbey.org/visit-us/highlights/poets-corner. Retrieved 2009-05-31. 
  44. ^ "Byron Monument for the Abbey: Movement to Get Memorial in Poets' Corner Is Begun" (PDF). The New York Times. 1907-07-12. http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?res=9D02E2DF173EE033A25750C1A9619C946697D6CF. Retrieved 2008-07-11. 
  45. ^ "List of Byron's works". http://readytogoebooks.com/LB-list.htm. Retrieved 2008-11-20. 
  46. ^ Lord Byron. Canto III, XCIII-XCIV. 
  47. ^ Atwood, Roger (2006). Stealing History: Tomb Raiders, Smugglers, And the Looting of the Ancient World. New York: St. Martin's Press. p. 136. ISBN 0312324073. 
  48. ^ History.com
  49. ^ Guardian.co.uk
  50. ^ a b Baron, J.H. (1997-12-20). "Illnesses and creativity: Byron's appetites, James Joyce's gut, and Melba's meals and mésalliances". British Journal of Medicine. http://www.bmj.com/cgi/content/full/315/7123/1697. Retrieved 2008-11-20. 
  51. ^ MacCarthy, pp. 3-4
  52. ^ Lord Byron (1808). "Epitaph to a Dog". A Collection Of Poems. http://www.poetryloverspage.com/poets/byron/byron_ind.html. Retrieved 2008-11-20. 
  53. ^ "The Byron Society". http://www.byronsociety.com/. Retrieved 2008-11-20. 
  54. ^ Wellman, Manly Wade (December 2001) [1938]. Fearful Rock and Other Precarious Locales. 3. Night Shade Books. ISBN 978-1892389213. 
  55. ^ JaneBitesBack.com

Further reading

External links

Works

Other online resources

Peerage of England
Preceded by
William Byron
Baron Byron
1798–1824
Succeeded by
George Byron







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