Lord Byron

Dafato Team | May 11, 2022

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George Gordon Byron (London, January 22, 1788-Mesolongi, April 19, 1824), known as Lord Byron, was a poet of the British Romanticism movement, forerunner of the figure of the accursed poet. Due to his poetic talent, his personality, his physical attractiveness and his life of scandals, he was a celebrity of his time. He was the sixth Baron Byron.


Byron was the son of Captain John Byron "Mad Jack" and his second wife, Lady Catherine Gordon. His grandfather was John Byron, also called "Foulweather", a British vice-admiral who sailed all over the world. His father, John Byron, died in 1791 in Valenciennes (France) when George was three years old. John's death took place in a small residence owned by his sister, where he had fled some time before from his creditors and his wife's terrible temper. During his stay there, the father kept several mistresses and squandered what was left of the family's money as he pleased. Thus, at that age and in the company of his mother in Aberdeen, George inherited from his progenitor little more than debts and funeral expenses. However, if the father's material inheritance was little more than a displeasure for the son, the same could not be said of the spiritual inheritance, since the young man would retain his love of beauty, the cult of gallantry, and his inclination towards licentious living. From his mother, on the other hand, he would inherit the gentleness and affection that she offered him, but also her atrocious temper.

Byron was born with a deformity in his right foot, which was clubfoot. It was knock-kneed, meaning that his toes were turned inward. Byron always bet that this deformity was due to the prudishness of his mother, who refused medical assistance at the birth. Because of this anomaly, his father said he would never walk. But little Byron, who had to wear an orthopedic shoe throughout his childhood, rebelled against his father's belief and learned to run rather than walk, and even when he walked with a limp, he boasted of walking faster than many. When he reached youth, his manners and manners served to disguise his limp, making it appear to be an eccentric yet distinguished walk.

Byron had to endure much ridicule and rejection because of his limp. However, with time he learned to defend himself under the maxim that "when one limb weakens there is always another that compensates", words to which in his life he would always honor. In addition to his lameness, he suffered greatly from the cold, as his bones were always fragile, something that caused him great discomfort.


His parents' relationship, which marked Byron in an important way, could be defined as tempestuous. While Byron could never consider his father a true lover of his mother, his mother, despite her resentment at the illicitness of her husband's life, became sad and inconsolable after his loss. Byron would describe the relationship he experienced with his mother Catherine as a banging and kissing affair. Catherine would often call little Byron: lame rascal or little devil, while he would call her old woman or the widow. Despite this love-hate relationship, Byron would later say that his mother was the only one who understood him.

When he was nine years old, his mother placed him in the hands of a young Scottish governess and nurse, a devout Calvinist, named Mary Gray. She initiated him in the reading of the Bible and in sex, since at that time, in spite of his young age, he had his first sexual relations with Mary. Together with her he spent the summer in the Dee Valley, in a cottage near Abergeldie, and contemplated Mary Gray's alcoholic and orgiastic hobbies. From that time, in addition to the world that was discovered to him through sexuality with the young Mary Gray, whom he would keep forever in his memory, Byron also remembered the beauty of the northern Scottish mountains, which he admired during his stay and explored its nooks and crannies daily in his continuous escapades, despite his latent lameness.

Byron did not keep bitter memories of those first sexual relations and religious readings, nor did he say that they had harmed him in any way. On the contrary, he affirmed that the experience in the valley of the Dee helped him to mature and to understand early the feeling of melancholy.

This occurred while he was living in the Scottish town of Aberdeen, where he was initiated in Latin and history with the help of a Presbyterian preceptor until his entry into Aberdeen Grammar School. While in the fourth grade at the historic school, his presence in England was required due to the death of his great-uncle Lord William Byron, fifth Baron Byron.

Once there, with the death of her great-uncle, her aristocracy was recognized, and although she never held the title dear to her, the experience broadened her horizons and she thought she had grown up suddenly imagining herself in the House of Lords in the future. Mother, son and governess went to live at the newly inherited Newstead Abbey, which, to his surprise, in contrast to his aspirations of new wealth, was loaded with debts and in very bad condition. His mother hired London lawyer John Hanson to manage and administer the estate, and he would take charge of the family affairs until little George was old enough. Byron would fondly remember that this was the best residence he ever had. There he met and fell in love with his cousin Mary Duff, who rejected him because he was too young for her. This fact left him devastated and encouraged him to make his first compositions.

It must be said that George's great-uncle had spent the last years of his life living almost like a hermit, an attitude that was not in keeping with the years he lived before his reclusion. Of those years, it is remembered that he was called the Villain and that he also lived them in a rather licentious way. Among his actions was the attempted murder of his wife by throwing her into a lake after a domestic argument. George inherited his family title and debts from this man.

Little Byron was sent to Dr. Glennie's school in Dulwich. There his studies were constantly interrupted by the manias of his stricken mother, who continually broke into his room to take him away for long periods. It was during this time that Byron read one of his favorite works, The Arabian Nights. He had already been an avid reader for years.

But in 1801, thanks in part to a pension of three hundred pounds that the young man's mother had received from the king, Byron was admitted to Harrow, where he would complete his primary studies.

In 1803 he had his first love tragedy when his cousin Margaret Parker, with whom he was also in love, died.


In 1805 he moved to Cambridge University. Here, in addition to being a brilliant student, he would stand out for his extravagant costumes and his licentious and profligate life. As dogs and cats were not allowed at the school, he, an animal lover, decided to keep a bear as a pet. Despite this, he earned the nickname of good boy and had great friends, such as Lord Broughton and John Hobhouse, who would become leader of the Liberal Party. Byron was already a great fan of writing verse at this time and learned boxing and fencing, becoming a great expert in both fighting arts thanks to his friends Jackson and Angelo. He would drop out of college for lack of money and move to 16 Picadilly Street in London, where he was the lover of a prostitute. Then, without money, he would return with his mother to Southwell and would devote himself body and soul to poetry. That year he published his first book of poems entitled Composiciones fugaces, thanks to a friend of his, Elisabeth Pigot, who wrote his writings and edited them. However, the local parish priest refused to let it go on sale and burned it because in one of the poems, a certain Mary was bad-mouthed.

In 1807 his book of poems, Leisure Hours, was published in the prestigious Edinburgh Review, which elicited mixed reviews. In the face of criticism he always responded combatively or by writing a new work. In 1809 he took a seat in the House of Lords, wrote the satire English Bards and Scottish Critics and undertook a two-year journey through various European countries. He began his journey in Spain, where he was captivated by the beauty of the Spanish women (he wrote the poem The Girl from Cadiz) and had an interview with General Castaños in the middle of the War of Independence. He also traveled to Portugal, Albania, Malta and Greece, where he swam across the Hellespont with his friend Hobhouse, and where he wrote the satires Hints from Horace and The Curse of Minerva. He was also in Turkey, where he tried to discover Troy. During these travels he had several affairs, both with women and men. In 1811 his mother and two of his friends died in just one month. These losses greatly influenced his mood, as he became obsessed with death. At this time he took refuge in his half-sister Augusta Leigh, maintaining a relationship with her. As a consequence he was accused of incest (she was married and in the spring of 1814 gave birth to her third daughter, Medora, rumored to be Byron's and not her husband's).


The publication in 1812 of the first two cantos of The Pilgrimages of Childe Harold, poems that narrate his travels through Europe, brought him to fame. In addition, he produced another series of works such as The Giaour, The Bride of Abydos, The Privateer and Lara, establishing what was called Byron's hero. Around this time he met the man who would become his biographer Thomas Moore. Also famous was his affair with the aristocratic Lady Caroline Lamb. Byron was disliked by the other components of the nobility for his continuous love affairs and criticism (such as the Duke of Wellington). He was even publicly insulted in the House of Lords for having defended Luddism and Catholics. But he really cared very little and even liked to be hated because, in his opinion, he was also feared. In 1815, the year he published Hebrew Melodies, he married Anna Isabella Noel Byron, to whom he said on their wedding night, "You will be sorry you married the devil." On their honeymoon, as they were passing through a village, bells rang for a deceased person, to which Byron said, "Surely those bells are ringing for us," hinting at the poor future of the relationship as they were not like-minded personalities. After learning that Byron was not faithful to her, Anna Isabella left him in 1816 after giving birth to the poet's only legitimate daughter, the brilliant mathematician Augusta Ada. Rumors of his incestuous relations with his half-sister Augusta (with whom he was rumored to have had a daughter, Medora), his unpatriotic poems, his accusation of sodomy, and doubts about his sanity led to his social ostracism. Deeply embittered, Byron left England in 1816 and never returned.

From 1816 he would begin a series of trips throughout Europe that would not end until his death. In 1816 he visited Waterloo, a tourist place par excellence at that time, when it was only a year since the famous battle was held there.

In 1816 he moved to Switzerland and lived for some time with Percy Shelley, Mary Shelley and his personal physician John William Polidori (Byron was very prone to illness and this was another cause of his depression). On a stormy summer night in 1816 the four of them met at the Villa Diodati, rented by Byron, and decided to write horror stories worthy of that gloomy night. Inspired by Byron's personality, Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein and Polidori his story The Vampire. During his stay in Switzerland, Byron wrote The Prisoner of Chillon, The Hymn to Intellectual Beauty, The Dream and Sojourns to Augusta.

From 1817 to 1822 he traveled around Italy, touring cities such as Pisa, Genoa and Rome, where he had an affair with Margherita Cogni and lived in the Nani-Mocenigo palace. The residence was almost a harem for him and he frequented the gatherings of the Countesses Benzoni and Albrizzi. In 1821 he took part in the Carbonari revolt in Ravenna and joined the movements against the pope (he published his critical work The Prophecy of Dante) and against Austria. He also lived for a time in Venice, where he bragged he had 250 sexual relations with women, and where he lived with the Countess Teresa Guiccioli, recently separated from her elderly husband. Edgar Allan Poe, the American writer, drew on that relationship to write "The Rendezvous," an 1834 Gothic tale.

He became passionate about reading the Faust by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, a writer whom he admired and with whom he corresponded several times. This admiration was reciprocal, since Goethe wrote that Byron was "the poet of the present". At the end of 1821 he wrote Manfredo, influenced by Goethe's Faust and the mountainous landscapes of Switzerland; he finished several cantos of his Don Juan and created a newspaper with Percy Shelley called The Liberal. Lord Byron admired Generals Paez and Bolivar (he called one of his schooners "Bolivar") and was about to enlist in one of the many contracts that were made in London to go to fight in the Venezuelan war of independence. Surely Lord Byron knew the exploits of these brave soldiers from the mouths of the expeditionaries returning to Europe, from their writings, narrations or comments in the press of the time.

In April 1822 his illegitimate daughter Allegra (born of his relationship with Claire Clairmont, half-sister of Mary Shelley) died when she was barely five years old and Byron was very fond of her. Moreover, while he was making a trip with his great friend Percy Shelley by schooner (Byron's was called "Bolivar" and Shelley's "Don Juan"), the latter died in a shipwreck on July 8 with his friend, Captain Williams. In September he settled in Genoa, as he wanted to devote himself to politics without success.

Adventure in Greece and death

In March 1823 he was appointed a member of the London Committee for the independence of Greece, and left there in 1824 from Genoa on the schooner Hercules to fight for the independence of the country, then part of the Ottoman Empire. There he wrote his last composition To My Thirty-six Years; he gave 4000 pounds and was appointed a regiment; he contacted the bandits of Suliotas; he was received as a hero by the Greeks, who wanted to make him a commander, and planned an attack together with Prince Alexandros Mavrokordatos, but was soon discouraged when he discovered the quarrels for power of the various Greek groups. Mavrokordatos and Byron planned to attack the Turkish-held fortress of Lepanto (Naupactus) at the mouth of the Gulf of Corinth. Byron employed a master of fire to prepare the artillery and formed part of the rebel army under his own command, despite his lack of military experience. Before the expedition could set sail, on February 15, 1824, he fell ill and the bloodletting performed on him weakened him further. He partially recovered, but on April 10, 1824, he suffered an epileptic fit and came down with a violent cold, which the therapeutic bloodletting, done at the insistence of his physicians, only aggravated. The doctors prescribed bloodletting, which he refused. Days later, exhausted by the disease and calling them murderers, he allowed the doctors to draw as much blood as they wished. On April 16 they performed the first one without good results. The following day they performed two more. This treatment, performed with non-sterile medical instruments, could have caused sepsis. He contracted a violent fever and died in Missolonghi on April 19 without having fulfilled his dream of Greek independence. Eyewitnesses said that, in total, about two liters of blood had been taken from him.

Goethe wrote at the news of his death: "Rest in peace, my friend; your heart and your life have been great and beautiful".

A suburb of Athens was named Vyronia in his honor.

His body was moved by Edward Trelawny, also involved in the Greek cause, and buried in the church of St. Mary Magdalene in Hucknall, Nottinghamshire (near Newstead Abbey), next to his mother. In Westminster Abbey, in the so-called Poets' Corner, there is only a memorial unveiled in 1969, since at the time of Byron's death his burial was not allowed in the abbey because of its dubious morality. When his coffin was opened in 1938, it was found that the body, originally embalmed and brought to England in a vat of cognac, was in good general condition, with only the extremities showing signs of decomposition. His perfectly preserved face, his countenance frozen in a serene smile, reflected in a recognizable way his features captured in dozens of paintings and engravings, and his hair showed a grayish color as the only sign of the passage of time.

Byron was a prolific writer. In 1833 his publisher John Murray published 17 volumes of his entire oeuvre, including a biography of Thomas Moore. His great work, Don Juan, a 17-cant poem written in ottava rima, was one of the most important long poems published in England since John Milton's Paradise Lost. Don Juan includes satirical, polemical elements and deep philosophical reflections and influenced social, political, literary and ideological levels. Its reception was controversial, as it was accused of immorality. The poem, like Childe Harold's The Pilgrimages, is characterized by the charismatic personality of the narrator, who brings the text together and often resorts to digressions. Don Juan served as inspiration for Victorian authors and remained unfinished due to Byron's untimely death.

He influenced the Romantic authors of the 19th century, especially by his heroes or anti-heroes (see: Byron's Hero). His characters present an idealized but flawed character whose attributes included:

The works The Pilgrimages of Childe Harold, Lara, Manfredo and Don Juan contain certain autobiographical aspects and references.

He also wrote short poems such as Oscuridad, which has an apocalyptic tone inspired by the consequences of an eruption of the Tamora volcano; lyrical poems such as Ella camina en belleza; small narrative poems such as El Prisionero de Chillon; and other longer poems of evident polemical content such as The Vision of Judgment, a text in which he caricatures and harshly criticizes Robert Southey.

In the absolutist Spain of King Ferdinand VII and in a Hispanic America that was fighting for its emancipation, Byron's life and work had a great influence and served as inspiration for the poets of Romanticism.

He was an author admired by many of his contemporaries, such as Goethe, Alphonse de Lamartine, Jan Potocki, and by others of immediate generations, such as Edgar Allan Poe (who based many of his Extraordinary Narratives on Byron's characters), Gustavo Adolfo Becquer, Mikhail Lermontov, Alexander Pushkin, Jose Marmol, Victor Hugo, Alexander Dumas and Charles Nodier.

Lord Byron had a particular personal magnetism. He gained a reputation for being unconventional, eccentric, controversial, ostentatious and controversial. Many have attributed his extraordinary abilities to a bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive syndrome. He was always acidic and cruel. He favored the disinherited, the marginalized, the wretched such as privateers and Cossacks, and everything else was hypocrisy: nobility, society, etc. He always defended the weakest and the oppressed, which is why he supported Spain against the Napoleonic invasion, the independence of the South American nations and, of course, the freedom of his beloved Greece. He was a great admirer of Rousseau. He had a great fondness for the company of animals, such as his Newfoundland dog "Boatswain", on whose grave he wrote:

Here lie the remains of a creature who was beautiful without vanity strong without insolence, brave without ferocity and had many of man's virtues and none of his faults.

Byron, while studying at Cambridge, kept a bear in an institution where pets were forbidden. At other times in his life he kept a fox, monkeys, parrots, cats, an eagle, a hawk, guinea fowl, a crow, a badger, geese, an Egyptian crane and a heron.

Byron is considered to be the first celebrity as the term is conceived modernly. His hero image fascinated the public and his own wife Annabella coined the term byromania to refer to the expectation and commotion he caused wherever he went, which resembled that of today's pop or rock stars. The self-consciousness of his personal image and his capacity for self-promotion caused him, for example, to instruct the artists who portrayed him never to represent him in a sedentary or passive attitude, with a pen or a book in his hand (which was the prototypical image of writers), but as a man of action. Over time, Byron tried to move away from his public exposure, which he had promoted so much in his early years.

The burning of Byron's memoirs in the offices of his publisher John Murray a month after his death, and the suppression of details of Byron's bisexuality in documents alluding to him, meant that his subsequent biographies gave a distorted picture of the character. It was not until as late as 1950 that the scholar Leslie Marchard was authorized to give details of Byron's homosexual relationships.

The re-founding of the Byron Society in 1971 reflected the continuing fascination with Byron and his work. The society organized numerous activities and published an annual journal. Soon the number of Byronic societies reached 36, spread across the globe. Every year they organize an annual conference where they meet.

Byron exerted a great influence on literature and art. At the time he was considered the most important poet in the world and his reputation and importance remains. His personality and writings also inspired numerous composers: there are more than forty operas inspired by his works and at least three operas with Byron himself as the main character (one of them Lord Byron by Virgil Thomson). Byron's verses were set to music by Romantic composers such as Felix Mendelssohn, Carl Loewe or Robert Schumann. One of his greatest admirers was Hector Berlioz, whose music reflects Byron's influence, especially in his symphony with solo viola Harold in Italy, a work based on The Pilgrimages of Childe Harold.


The first book in which Byron appears as a fictional character was in a novel written by his examiner Lady Caroline Lamb, entitled Glenarvon and published in 1816.

The Spanish poet Gaspar Núñez de Arce published in 1879 a long poem entitled Última lamentación de Lord Byron.

Manly Wade Wellman's short story The Black Drama, originally published in Weird Tales magazine, tells of the rediscovery of a lost work by Lord Byron that, according to this fiction, was plagiarized by Polidori in The Vampire.

Byron is one of the characters in the novel Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell (2004) by Susanna Clarke.

He is one of the main characters in the novel The Fire by Katherine Neville (2008).

She appears as a vampire, Jane Austen's antagonist (herself recreated as a vampire) in the novel Jane Bites Back (Ballantine Books, 2009) by Michael Thomas Ford.

The story Leche (2016) by Óscar Esquivias evokes the stay of Byron and Polidori at the Villa Diodati.


The love affair between Byron and Lady Caroline Lamb was recreated in the film Lady Caroline Lamb (1972), in which the role of Byron was played by Richard Chamberlain. The film was directed by Robert Bolt.

In 1986, Gabriel Byrne plays Byron in the film Gothic, based on the meeting with Percy and Mary Shelley, Polidori and Claire in the summer of 1816 at Villa Diodati.

In 1988, the Spanish film Remando al viento was released, directed by Gonzalo Suárez and starring British actor Hugh Grant in the role of Byron.

Greek director Nikos Koundouros directed Byron, balanta gia enan daimonismeno (Byron, ballad for a possessed man, 1992).

In 2017, the film Mary Shelley, about the life of the author of Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus, was released, and in which the role of Byron is played by English actor Tom Sturridge.


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