George Gordon Byron, 6th Baron Byron PDF Print E-mail
Sunday, 31 May 2009 14:21

George Gordon Byron, later Noel, 6th Baron Byron FRS

Born: 22 January 1788, 16 Holles Street, Cavendish Square, London, England

Died: 19 April 1824, Missolonghi, Greece

Age: 36

Cause of death:  Fever

Notable because: Attended Harrow and Cambridge. Used his seat in the house of Lords to promote ideas including -  opposition to the established religion because it was unfair to people of other faiths. He played a major role in turning Western hearts and minds against the Turks and their barbarism. His profound lyricism and ideological courage has inspired many making him perhaps the first 'star' to be celebrated for his skill with words and beauty. Loved by the Greeks whose struggle for liberation from the Turkish occupation he participated in despite his lack of military experience. Had he lived, may well have become King of Greece. A suburb in Athens (Vyronas) is named after him and his name is a popular choice for Greek boys.

George Gordon 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 European poets and remains widely read and influential, both in the English-speaking world and beyond.

Byron's fame rests not only on his writings but also on his life, which featured upper-class living, numerous love affairs, debts, and separation. He was famously described by Lady Caroline Lamb as "mad, bad, and dangerous to know". 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. He died from a fever contracted while in Messolonghi in Greece.

Byron was born in a house on Hollis 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. Vice Admiral John Byron had circumnavigated the globe, and was the younger brother of the 5th Baron Byron, known as "the Wicked Lord".Lord George Gordon Byron

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 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 and, after squandering it, deserted her. Catherine regularly experienced mood swings and bouts of melancholy.

Catherine moved back to Scotland shortly afterward, where she raised her son in Aberdeen. 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. 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". According to Byron, this "caused the anticipated melancholy of my thoughts--having anticipated life". Gray was dismissed for allegedly beating Byron when he was 11.

Byron received his early formal education at Aberdeen Grammar School. In 1801 he was sent to Harrow, where he remained until July 1805. He represented Harrow during the very first Eton v Harrow cricket match at Lord's in 1805. After school he went on to Trinity College, Cambridge.

Byron's names changed throughout his life. He was christened "George Gordon Byron" in London. "Gordon" was a baptismal name, not a surname, honoring 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". Very unusually, 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"). 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".

While not at school or college, Byron lived with his mother at Burgage Manor in Southwell, Nottinghamshire, in some antagonism. 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. Pieces on Various Occasions, a "miraculously chaste" revision according to Byron, was published after this.

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, 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.

After his return from his travels, the first two cantos of Childe Harold's Pilgrimage were published in 1812, and were received with acclaim. In his own words, "I awoke one morning and found myself famous". 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. About the same time, he began his intimacy with his future biographer, Thomas Moore.

John FitzGibbon 2nd Earl of Clare.

A more complete picture of Byron's personal life has only been possible 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.

Byron's first loves included Mary Duff and Margaret Parker, his distant cousins, and Mary Chaworth, whom he met while at Harrow. Byron later wrote that his passion for Duff began when he was "not [yet] eight years old," and was still remembered in 1813. 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." In Byron's later memoirs, "Mary Chaworth is portrayed as the first object of his adult sexual feelings."

Byron returned to Harrow in January 1804, 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).'  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).  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.' 

"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 a 15-year-old choirboy, 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. Byron wore a ring of Edleston's for the 13 years until he died. 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.  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. 

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

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

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, 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"). He travelled from England over Spain to Albania and spent time at the court of Ali Pasha of Ioannina, and in Athens. For most of the trip, he had a traveling companion in his friend John Cam Hobhouse.

While in Athens, Byron met Nicolò Giraud, who became quite close and taught him Italian. 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 canceled. In 1810 in Athens Byron wrote Maid of Athens, ere we part (George Byron) for a 12-year-old girl, Teresa Makri {1798-1875}, and reportably offered £ 500 for her. The offer was not accepted.

In 1812, Byron embarked on a well-publicized affair with the married Lady Caroline Lamb that shocked the British public. Byron eventually broke off the relationship, 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". She began to call on him at home, sometimes dressed in disguise as a page boy, 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, and by others as innocent. 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. On 16 January 1816, Lady Byron left him, taking Ada with her. On 21 April, Byron signed the Deed of Separation. Rumors of marital violence, adultery with actresses, incest with Augusta Leigh, and sodomy were circulated, assisted by a jealous Lady Caroline. In a letter, Augusta quoted him as saying: "Even to have such a thing said is utter destruction & ruin to a man from which he can never recover."

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, 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.

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. 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. Cogni could not read or write, and she left her husband to move into Byron's Venice house. 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.

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. 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, burned in 1824, a month after Byron's death.

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. He wished for her to be brought up Catholic and not marry an Englishman. 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. However, the girl died when five of a fever in Bagna Cavallo, Italy while Byron was in Pisa; he was deeply upset by the news. 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. At one time he himself had wanted to be buried at Harrow. Byron was indifferent towards Allegra's mother, Claire Clairmont.

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

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". In another Parliamentary speech he expressed opposition to the established religion because it was unfair to people of other faiths. 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. 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).

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

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, 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. When in Polis he discovered discrepancies in the Armenian versus the English version of the Bible and translated some passages that were either missing or deficient in the English version. 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. He may be credited with the birth of Armenology and its propagation. His profound lyricism and ideological courage has inspired many Armenian poets, the likes of Ghevond Alishan, Smbat Shahaziz, Hovhannes Tumanyan, Ruben Vorberian and others.

Lord Byron in Albanian dress painted by Thomas Phillips in 1813

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 and with the Countess, he accepted overtures for his support from representatives of the movement for Greek independence from the Ottoman Empire.

Early in March, 1824, the news reached him that he had been elected a member of the Greek Committee, a small body of influential Liberals who had taken up the cause of the liberation of Greece. Byron at once offered money and advice, and after some hesitation on the score of health, determined "to go to Greece." His first step was to sell the "Bolivar" to Lord Blessington, and to purchase the "Hercules", a collier-built tub of 120 tons. On the 23rd of July the "Hercules" sailed from Livorno and anchored off Cephalonia on the 3rd of August. The party on board consisted of Byron, Pietro Gamba, Trelawny, Hamilton Browne and six or seven servants. The next four months were spent at Cephalonia, at first on board the "Hercules", in the harbor of Argostoli and afterwards at Metaxata. The object of this delay was to ascertain the real state of affairs in Greece. The revolutionary Greeks were split up into parties, not to say factions, and there were several leaders. It was a question to which leader he would attach himself. At length a message reached him which inspired him with confidence. He received a summons from Prince Alexander Mavrocordato, a man of birth and education, urging him to come at once to Missolonghi, and enclosing a request from the legislative body "to cooperate with Mavrocordato in the organization of western Greece." Byron felt that he could act with a "clear conscience" in putting himself at the disposal of a man whom he regarded as the authorized leader and champion of the Greeks. He sailed from Argostoli on the 29th of December 1823, and after an adventurous voyage landed at Missolonghi on the 5th of January 1824. He met with a royal reception. Byron may have sought, but he did not find, "a soldier's grave." During his three months' residence at Missolonghi he accomplished little and he endured much. He advanced large sums of money for the payment of the troops, for repair and construction of fortifications, for the provision of medical appliances. He brought opposing parties into line, and served as a link between Odysseus, the democratic leader of the insurgents, and the "prince" Mavrocordato. He was eager to take the field, but he never got the chance. A revolt in the Morea, and the repeated disaffection of his Suliote guard prevented him from undertaking the capture of Epacto, an exploit which he had reserved for his own leadership. He was beset with difficulties, but at length events began to move. On the 18th of March he received an invitation from Odysseus and other chiefs to attend a conference at Salona, and by the same messenger an offer from the government to appoint him "governor-general of the enfranchised parts of Greece." He promised to attend the conference but did not pledge himself to the immediate acceptance of office. But to Salona he never came. "Roads and rivers were impassable", and the conference was inevitably postponed. His health had given way, but he does not seem to have realized that his life was in danger. On the 15th of February he was struck down by an epileptic fit, which left him speechless though not motionless. He recovered sufficiently to conduct his business as usual, and to drill the troops. But he suffered from dizziness in the head and spasms in the chest, and a few days later he was seized with a second though slighter convulsion. These attacks may have hastened but they did not cause his death. For the first week of April the weather confined him to the house, but on the 9th a letter from his sister raised his spirits and tempted him to ride out with Gamba. It came on to rain, and though he was drenched to the skin he insisted on dismounting and returning in an open boat to the quay in front of his house. Two hours later he was seized with ague and violent rheumatic pains. On the 11th he rode out once more through the olive groves, attended by his escort of Suliote guards, but for the last time. Whether he had got his deathblow, or whether copious blood-letting made recovery impossible, he gradually grew worse, and on the ninth day of his illness fell into a comatose sleep. It was reported that in his delirium he had called out, half in English, half in Italian, "Forward -- forward -- courage! follow my example -- don't be afraid!" and that he tried to send a last message to his sister and to his wife. He died at six o'clock in the evening of the 19th of April 1824, aged thirty-six years and three months. The Greeks were heartbroken. Mavrocordato gave orders that 37 minute-guns should be fired at daylight and decreed a general mourning of 21 days. His body was embalmed and lay in state.

On the 25th of May his remains, all but the heart, which is buried at Missolonghi, were sent back to England, and were finally laid beneath the chancel of the village church of Hucknall-Torkard on the 16th of July 1824. The authorities would not sanction burial in Westminster Abbey, and there is neither bust nor statue of Lord Byron in Poets' Corner

Mavrokordatos and Byron had 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. 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. It has been said that had Byron lived, he might have been declared King of Greece.


Lord Byron on his deathbed as depicted by Joseph-Denis Odevaere c.1826 Oil on canvas, 166 × 234.5 cm Groeninge Museum, 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. 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. 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. According to others, 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". Huge crowds viewed his body as he lay in state for two days in London. 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. 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. Trinity College, Cambridge finally placed the statue of Byron in its library.

In 1969, 145 years after Byron's death, a memorial to him was finally placed in Westminster Abbey.

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.)

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 put in the Poets' Corner and England be relieved of ingratitude toward one of her really great sons."

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.

Byron wrote prolifically. In 1833 his publisher, John Murray, released the complete works in 17 duodecimo volumes, including a life by Thomas Moore.

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.

Byron's magnum opus, Don Juan, a poem spanning 17 cantos, ranks as one of the most important long poems published in England since Milton's Paradise Lost. 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. It was then released volume by volume through his regular publishing house. By 1822, cautious acceptance by the public had turned to outrage, and Byron's publisher refused to continue to publish the works. In Canto III of Don Juan, Byron expresses his detestation for poets such as William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

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

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. 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. The Byronic hero presents an idealised, but flawed character whose attributes include: 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.

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.

Lord Byron obtained a reputation as being extravagant, melancholy, courageous, unconventional, eccentric, flamboyant and controversial. 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. He enjoyed adventure, especially relating to the sea.

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."

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

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.He was athletic, being a competent boxer and horse-rider and an excellent swimmer. At Harrow, he played cricket despite his lameness.

From birth, Byron suffered from an unknown deformity of his right foot (generally referred to as a "clubfoot" at the time), causing a limp that resulted in lifelong misery for him, aggravated by the suspicion that with proper care it might have been cured. 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, although he often wore specially made shoes that would hide the deformed foot.

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.

Byron is considered to be the first modern-style celebrity. His image as the personification of the Byronic hero fascinated the public, and his wife Annabella coined the term "Byromania" to refer to the commotion surrounding him. 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".

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

Byron had a great fondness for animals, most famously for a Newfoundland dog named Boatswain; when Boatswain contracted rabies, Byron reportedly nursed him without any fear of becoming bitten and infected. 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. The inscription, Byron's Epitaph to a Dog, has become one of his best-known works, reading in part:

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
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).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, and a bear.

The re-founding of the Byron Society in 1971 reflects the fascination that many people have for Byron and his work. This society has become very active, publishing a learned annual journal. Today some 36 Byron Societies function throughout the world, and an International Conference takes place annually. Hardly a year passes without a new book about the poet appearing. In the last 20 years, two new feature films about him have screened, and a television play has been broadcast.

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. Byron has inspired the works of Franz Liszt, Hector Berlioz, and Giuseppe Verdi.

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

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, published by Del Rey in 2005 and 2006.

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

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).

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 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 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, 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.

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, and episode 60 (Darkling) of Star Trek: Voyager.

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.

In Episode 50 Ecto Cooler (Season 5) of The Grim Adventures Of Billy And Mandy the ghost of Lord Byron appears from Billy's mouth and teaches him to be cool, with disastrous results.

Byron is depicted in the book Edward Trencom's Nose by Giles Milton.

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

Byron is a minor character in Susanna Clarke's novel "Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrel".


Childe Harolds Pilgrimage by Baron George Noel Gordon Byron (2013-09-13)

Author: Baron George Noel Gordon Byron
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Lord Byron in Albanian dress after the painting by Thomas Phillips in 1813 George Gordon Byron 6th Baron Byron later George Gordon Noel 6th Baron Byron 1788 Poster Print (12 x 15)

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Editorial Review: Lord Byron in Albanian dress after the painting by Thomas Phillips in 1813. George Gordon Byron, 6th Baron Byron, later George Gordon Noel, 6th Baron Byron, 1788 is a licensed reproduction that was printed on Premium Heavy Stock Paper which captures all of the vivid colors and details of the original. The overall paper size is 12.00 x 15.00 inches. This print is ready for hanging or framing and would make a great addition to your home or office decor.


Byron (English Men of Letters Series)

Author: George Gordon Noel (Lord) Nichol, John Byron
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Don Juan

Author: George Gordon Noel (Lord) Byron
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Byron: Selected Verse and Prose Works Including Letters and Extracts from Lord Byron's Diaries and Journals

Author: George Gordon Noel (Lord) Quennell, Peter Ed Byron
Manufacturer: Collins
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Last Updated on Sunday, 31 May 2009 15:05

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