George Gordon, Lord Byron, is one of the most famous English poets of all time. He was one of the younger poets in the Romantic movement of the late Eighteenth and early Nineteenth Century. He was most well-known for his poem Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage. He is also known for creating the Byronic hero, which is based upon himself. The Byronic hero is a dark, moody character who struggles with some secret from his past. Byron’s life gave him plenty of issues and secrets for him to struggle against.
Byron was born January 22, 1788. He came from a scandalous family history; his father had seduced a married woman at one point. The woman eventually married John Byron, but died during childbirth. Byron’s father married his mother, who was an heiress. Byron eventually inherited the title of Barony of Byron at the age of ten (Eisler 31-33). He therefore became known as Lord Byron. While he was not the only Lord Byron in history, he is most certainly the most famous of the Byrons. Byron was educated in the classics. His education occurred at Aberdeen Grammar School and then Harrow School. He eventually attended Trinity College at Cambridge. However, Byron was known for creating problems in his life (Biography).
He married a respectable woman, Annabella Millbanke. However, his sexual escapades were legendary. He had affairs with Lady Caroline Lamb, as well as his half-sister Augusta. His reputation was despicable to polite society; however, they eagerly read his works. Lord Byron’s poems sold out, an unheard of feat in literature. However, his reputation eventually forced him into exile. He fled England and headed for the continent (Biography).
In 1816, he developed an important friendship with a group of other exiles. Percy Bysshe Shelley, a young English poet, had fled with his mistress, Mary Godwin. Godwin’s step-sister, Claire Claremont joined them. Claire was pregnant with Byron’s child. The group eventually decided to engage in a ghostwriting competition. Mary Godwin wrote a story that eventually developed into the novel Frankenstein. Byron’s influence on Mary Shelley (after her marriage) is forever remembered as a result of this (Sunstein 120-24). Claire’s daughter was later placed in a convent, where she died before the age of five.
Byron then moved to Italy, where he lived for approximately seven years. He had found a married woman, Teresa Guiccioli, who he loved deeply. During this time, he edited a newspaper, and interestingly enough, remained faithful to his married lover. However, Byron remained a restless soul. He had always had a deep love and admiration for the Ottoman Empire. He decided that he wanted to work for the independence of Greece. While fighting for their independence, he took ill and died. He was thirty-six years old. As a result of his love for Greek freedom, he was considered a national hero to the Greek people (Biography).
Byron’s lasting impact is due to his modern celebrity. Byron can be considered the first truly modern celebrity in that everyone knew he was and followed his movements. He was quite scandalous and reveled in the scandals he created. He also publicized his scandals in his works. Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage reflects the dark brooding intensity of the Byronic hero. However, his other famous lengthy poem, Don Juan, shows his love of sexuality. His lyrical works, such as She Walks in Beauty, reflects his ability to engage in romantic language. Needless to say, women, such as Claire Claremont, often made passes at him. He was pursued by women, who would travel several countries to see him (Biography).
Lord Byron remains one of the world’s most well-known poets. As a child of the Romantic Movement, he sought a world that was willing to break free from conventions. He most certainly did this, both in his poetry and in his life.
- Biography. “Lord Byron.” 2016. 26 April 2016.
- Eisler, Benita. Byron. New York: Alfred Knopf, 1999.
- Sunstein, Emily. Mary Shelley. New York: Little, Brown, and Company, 1989.