LORD BYRON

(22 January 1788 19 April 1824)

Lord Byron

George Gordon Byron, 6th Baron Byron was a British poet and a leading figure in Romanticism. Among Lord Byron's best-known works are the narrative poems Childe Harold's Pilgrimage and Don Juan. The latter remained incomplete on his death. He was regarded as one of the greatest European poets and remains widely read.


Lord Byron was born in London on January 22, 1788. His father, John Byron, died in 1791, and Byron spent most of his youth with his mother, Catherine Gordon Byron, in Scotland. He was educated primarily at Harrow School, and later attended Cambridge. When he was ten, he inherited his title and estates, most notably Newstead. In 1806, he published his first book of poetry, but suppressed the edition and destroyed most of the copies. The book was revised and published in 1807. The critical response was mixed, and in response he published the satirical poem, English Bards and Scotch Reviewers, in 1809. That year, he also took his seat in the House of Lords, and attended a few sessions. However, Byron did not speak in Parliament until 1812, after he returned from nearly two years abroad and recovered from his mother's death in the summer of 1811.

In the summer of 1809, he went abroad and toured the Middle East with his friend John Cam Hobhouse. While in Greece, Byron wrote Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, which was published in 1812 and propelled him into London society. Over the next two years, he published the popular Turkish Tales, including The Giaour, The Bride of Abydos, The Corsair, and Lara. In 1812, he began an intense affair with Lady Caroline Lamb, who later wrote of their affair and London society in her roman clef, Glenarvon. Their affair led to his correspondence with her mother-in-law, Lady Elizabeth Melbourne. Through her, Byron proposed to Annabella Milbanke, Lady Melbourne's serious and prim niece. Although she refused in 1812, she accepted his second proposal in the fall of 1814 and they were married January 2, 1815. The two were not suited to one another, and after the birth of their daughter, Augusta Ada, on December 19, 1815, Annabella surprised Byron by requesting a separation. Although she refused to specify her reasons, it is likely that she learned of his suspected affair, in 1814, with his half-sister Augusta. In 1816, he once again went abroad and never returned to England.

Byron traveled to Switzerland, where he continued writing Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, and began The Prisoner of Chillon. After he left Switzerland, he continued traveling, included extended stays in Milan, Venice, Rome, and Ravenna over the course of the following years. His poetry written during this period includes Manfred,Cain, Sardanapalus, and the final canto of Childe Harold. In 1819, he began to write Don Juan, which he continued until 1823. In Switzerland, Byron met with Percy Bysshe Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin (later Mary Shelley), and her stepsister Clair Clairmont, with whom he had a brief affair in London. In spite of his dislike of overly attached Clairmont, Byron developed a friendship with the Shelleys and provided for his daughter, Allegra, by Clairmont, until the young child's tragic illness and death in 1822. In 1819 he began an affair with Teresa, Countess Guiccioli, which lasted until his death. While in Italy, he assisted the Italian freedom fighters working for democracy, but was disappointed by the lack of results. He went to Greece in 1823, where he assisted in the Greek war for independence from Turkey. He joined the Greek prince Mavrocordatos, and was soon in control, both because of his ability to finance the men and discord amongst the Greeks. In February 1824, Byron had what seems to have been an epileptic seizure, and became ill two months later. He died on April 19, 1824 after an extended illness and fever. After his death in Missolonghi, his remains were returned to England, and his friends decided to destroy rather than publish his Memoirs.

  • Epistle to Augusta


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