Often described as the most flamboyant and notorious of the major romantics and Regarded as one of the greatest British Poets, the English poet George Gordon Byron, 6th Baron Byron, later George Gordon Noel, 6th Baron Byron, FRS was born 22 January 1788.Among Byron’s best-known works are the lengthy narrative poems Don Juan and Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage and the short lyric She Walks in Beauty. he travelled all over Europe especially in Italy where he lived for 7 years before joining the Greek War of Independence fighting the Ottoman Empire, for which Greeks revere him as a national hero. Byron was also celebrated for aristocratic excesses, including huge debts, numerous love affairs, rumours of a scandalous incestuous liaison with his half-sister, and self-imposed exile. Byron spent his childhood in Aberdeenshire. His father soon joined them in their lodgings in Queen Street, Aberdeen, but the couple quickly separated. Catherine regularly experienced mood swings and bouts of melancholy,which could be partly explained by her husband’s continuing to borrow money from her. As a result, she fell even further into debt to support his demands. It was one of these importunate loans that allowed him to travel to Valenciennes, France, where he died in 1791. When Byron’s great-uncle, the “wicked” Lord Byron, died on 21 May 1798, the 10-year-old boy became the 6th Baron Byron of Rochdale and inherited the ancestral home, Newstead Abbey, in Nottinghamshire. His mother proudly took him to England, but the Abbey was in an embarrassing state of disrepair and, rather than live there, decided to lease it to Lord Grey de Ruthyn, among others, during Byron’s adolescence. Described as “a woman without judgment or self-command”, Catherine either spoiled and indulged her son or aggravated him with her capricious stubbornness. Her drinking disgusted him, and he often mocked her for being short and corpulent, which made it difficult for her to catch him to discipline him. She once retaliated and, in a fit of temper, referred to him as “a lame brat”.Upon the death of Byron’s mother-in-law Judith Noel, the Hon. Lady Milbanke, in 1822, her will required that he change his surname to “Noel” in order for him to inherit half of her estate. 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”). It is speculated that this was so that his initials would read “N.B.”, mimicking those of his hero, 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”.
Byron received his early formal education at Aberdeen Grammar School, and in August 1799 entered the school of Dr. William Glennie, in Dulwich.he was encouraged to exercise in moderation but could not restrain himself from “violent” bouts in an attempt to overcompensate for his deformed foot. His mother interfered with his studies, often withdrawing him from school, with the result that he lacked discipline and his classical studies were neglected.In 1801 he was sent to Harrow, where he remained until July 1805. an undistinguished student and an unskilled cricketer, he did represent the school during the very first Eton v Harrow cricket match at Lord’s in 1805.His lack of moderation was not just restricted to physical exercise. Byron fell in love with Mary Chaworth, whom he met while at school,nd she was the reason he refused to return to Harrow in September 1803. 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 finally returned in January 1804,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 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 prescient “consciousness of sexual differences that may in the end make England untenable to him”. He attended Trinity College, Cambridge. where he 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.
In later years he described the affair as “a violent, though pure love and passion”. This statement, however, needs to be read in the context of hardening public attitudes toward 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. 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. While not at school or college, Byron lived with his mother in Southwell, Nottinghamshire.While there, he cultivated friendships with Elizabeth Pigot and her brother, John, with whom he staged two plays for the entertainment of the community. 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.
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). It was put into the hands of his relation, R. C. Dallas, requesting him to “…get it published without his name”Alexander Dallas gives a large series of changes and alterations, as well as the reasoning for some of them. He also states that Byron had originally intended to prefix an argument to this poem, and Dallas quotes it.Although the work was published anonymously, by April, Dallas is writing that “you are already pretty generally known to be the author. the work so upset some of his 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, he again entrusted Dallas as his literary agent to publish his poem Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, which Byron thought of little account. 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. About the same time, he began his intimacy with his future biographer, Thomas Moore. Byron racked up numerous debts as a young man, owing to what his mother termed a “reckless disregard for money”. she lived at Newstead during this time, in fear of her son’s creditors.He had planned to spend early 1808 cruising with his cousinGeorge 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,and other theories saying that he was worried about a possible dalliance with a married woman, Mary Chaworth, 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”) 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.”He travelled from England over Portugal, Spain and the Mediterranean to Albania and spent time at the court of Ali Pasha of Ioannina, and in Athens. For most of the trip, he had a travelling companion in his friend John Cam Hobhouse. Many of these letters are referred to with details in Recollections of the Life of Lord Byron.
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”. From Lisbon he travelled overland to Seville, Jerez de la Frontera, Cadiz, Gibraltar and from there by sea on to Malta and Greece.While in Athens, Byron met 14-year-old Nicolò Giraud, who became quite close and taught him Italian. It has been suggested that the two had an intimate relationship involving a sexual affair. Byron sent Giraud to school at a monastery in Malta and bequeathed him a sizeable sum of seven thousand pounds sterling. The will, however, was later cancelled. 1810 in Athens Byron wroteMaid 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.Byron made his way to Smyrna, where he and Hobhouse cadged a ride to Constantinople on HMSSalsette. While Salsette was anchored awaiting Ottoman permission to dock at the city, on 3 May 1810 Byron and Lieutenant Ekenhead, of Salsette‘s Marines, swam the Hellespont. Byron commemorated this feat in the second canto of Don Juan. He returned to England from Malta in June 1813 aboard HMS Volage
After this break-up of his domestic life, Byron again left England, and, as it turned out, it was forever (until he returned after his death, despite his dying wishes). 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. 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, Fragment of a Novel, 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 ofChilde 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.Ultimately, Byron resolved to escape the censure of British society (due to allegations of sodomyand incest) by living abroad, thereby freeing himself of the need to conceal his sexual interests.Byron left England in 1816 and did not return for the last eight years of his life.
In 1816, Byron visited San Lazzaro degli Armeni in Venice, where he acquainted himself with Armenian culture with the help of the abbots belonging to the Mechitarist 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(Kerakanutyun angğiakan yev hayeren) in 1817, and Armenian Grammar and English(Kerakanutyun hayeren yev angğiakan) in 1819, where he included quotations fromclassical and modern Armenian. Intrigued by the language and its efficacy as a spoken tongue, Byron affirmed in his memoirs that “God spoke to the world in 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. 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. 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.
Led by the love for this local aristocratic and married young Teresa Guiccioli, Lord Byron lived in Ravenna between 1819 and 1821. Here he continued the Don Juan and wrote the Ravenna Diary, My Dictionary and Recollections. 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.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. For the first time since his arrival in Italy, Byron found himself tempted to give dinner parties; his guests included the Shelleys, Edward Ellerker Williams, Thomas Medwin, John Taaffe and Edward John Trelawney; and “never”, as Shelley said, “did he display himself to more advantage than on these occasions; being at once polite and cordial, full of social hilarity and the most perfect good humour; never diverging into ungraceful merriment, and yet keeping up the spirit of liveliness throughout the evening.”Shelley and Williams rented a house on the coast and had a schooner built. Byron decided to have his own yacht, and engaged Trelawny’s friend, Captain Daniel Roberts, to design and construct the boat. Named the Bolivar, it was later sold to Charles John Gardiner, 1st Earl of Blessington, and Marguerite, Countess of Blessington, when Byron left for Greece in 1823. Byron attended the funeral of Shelley, which was orchestrated by Trelawny after Williams and Shelley drowned in a boating accident on 8 July 1822. His last Italian home was Genoa, where he was still accompanied by the Countess Guiccioli, however, in 1823, while growing bored with his life there, he accepted overtures for his support from representatives of the movement for Greek independence from theOttoman Empire.With the assistance of his banker and Captain Daniel Roberts, Byron chartered the Brig Hercules to take him to Greece. On 16 July, Byron left Genoa arriving atKefalonia in the Ionian Islands on 4 August. His voyage is covered in detail in Sailing with Byron from Genoa to Cephalonia.
Byron chartered the Hercules And Between 1815 and 1823 the vessel was in service between England and Canada. Suddenly in 1823, the ship’s Captain decided to sail to Genoa and offer the Hercules for charter. After taking Byron to Greece, the ship returned to England, never again to venture into the Mediterranean. “The Hercules ran aground on 21 September 1852, aground near Hartlepool, only 25 miles south of Sunderland, where in 1815, her keel was laid.”Byron spent £4000 of his own money to refit the Greek fleet, then sailed for Missolonghi in western Greece, arriving on 29 December, to join Alexandros Mavrokordatos, a Greek politician with military power.When the famous Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen heard about Byron’s heroics in Greece, he voluntarily resculpted his earlier bust of Byron in Greek marble. 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 bloodletting 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 unsterilised medical instrumentation, may have caused him to develop sepsis. He developed a violent fever, and died on 19 April 1824.
His physician at the time, Julius van Millingen, son of Dutch-English archaeologist James Millingen, was unable to prevent his death. It has been said that if Byron had lived and had gone on to defeat the Ottomans, he might have been declared King of Greece. Alfred, Lord Tennyson would later recall the shocked reaction in Britain when word was received of Byron’s death. 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 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 Missolonghi.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, Nottinghamshire. 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 theNational 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. 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. On a very central area of Athens, Greece, outside the National Garden, is a statue depicting Greece in the form of a woman crowning Byron. The statue was made by the French Henri-Michel Chapu and Alexandre Falguière. Upon his death, the barony passed to Byron’s cousin George Anson Byron, a career naval officer.