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Lord Byron

(1788—1824) poet

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(sixth baron) (1788–1824),

son of Captain John Byron and Catherine Gordon of Gight. Byron was born with a club‐foot, which (it is generally supposed) had a profound effect on his future temperament. He inherited the baronetcy, and Newstead Abbey in Nottinghamshire, in 1798. He was educated at Harrow and Trinity College, Cambridge. His first published collection of poems, Hours of Idleness, appeared in 1807, and was bitterly attacked by Brougham in the Edinburgh Review. Byron avenged himself in 1809 with his satire English Bards and Scotch Reviewers. In 1808 he returned to Newstead, in 1809 took his seat in the House of Lords, and during 1809–11 visited Portugal, Spain, Malta, Greece, and the Levant. He swam the Hellespont, wrote his famous lyric ‘Maid of Athens’ (1810), and became fired with the wish that Greece be freed from the Turks.

His first great literary triumph came with the publication of the first two cantos of Childe Harold's Pilgrimage in March 1812. He was lionized by aristocratic and literary London, survived a hectic love‐affair with Lady Caroline Lamb, and became the constant companion of his half‐sister Augusta. In 1813 appeared The Bride of Abydos and The Giaour, in 1814, The Corsair and Lara. In the same year Augusta gave birth to a daughter (generally supposed to be Byron's). In 1815 Byron married Annabella Milbanke; in this year their daughter Ada was born, and Hebrew Melodies appeared. By now his debts were accumulating and public horror at the rumours of his incest was rising. Annabella left Byron and a legal separation was eventually arranged.

Byron travelled to Geneva in 1816 where the Shelleys and Claire Clairmont had rented a villa. Here he wrote The Prisoner of Chillon (1816) and Canto III of Childe Harold. After four months he left for Italy, and his daughter by Claire, Allegra, was born in Jan. 1817 in England. While living a riotous life in Venice he completed Manfred (1817). While travelling to Rome he passed Tasso's cell, which inspired his Lament of Tasso (1817). He returned to Venice and there wrote Beppo (1818). Newstead Abbey was sold and Byron was at last free from financial worries. In 1819 he published Mazeppa, and the first two Cantos of Don Juan. In this year he met Teresa, Countess Guiccioli, to whom he became deeply attached. They lived first in Venice, then he followed her and her household to Ravenna, where he wrote The Prophecy of Dante. In 1820 he became deeply involved with the cause of the Italian patriots. In 1821 Teresa left her husband for Byron and Marino Faliero was published. At this time Byron became interested in drama, and wrote The Two Foscari, Sardanapalus, Cain, the unfinished Heaven and Earth, and the unfinished The Deformed Transformed. In 1822 Werner and The Vision of Judgement were published and in that year his daughter Allegra died. Byron, with Teresa and her family, left for Leghorn, where Leigh Hunt joined them. Hunt and Byron cooperated in the production of the Liberal magazine. In 1823 he published The Age of Bronze, a satirical poem on the Congress of Verona, and The Island. In Jan. 1824, after various mishaps and escapes, he arrived at Missolonghi. He formed the ‘Byron Brigade’ and gave large sums of money, and great inspiration, to the insurgent Greeks; but before he saw any serious military action he died of fever in April.


Subjects: Literature

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