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"Mad, bad, and dangerous to know."

"No words suffice the secret soul to show,
For truth denies all eloquence to woe."
Lord Byron, from The Corsair

George Gordon Byron, 6th Baron Byron (22 January 1788 Ė 19 April 1824), was an English Romantic poet, womaniser, and revolutionary. Among his best-known works include Don Juan and Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, and he gave his name to the Byronic Hero, using the character in his work and being one in real life.

Byron was born on 22 January 1788 in London, the son of Army Captain John "Mad Jack" Byron, of a junior line of moderately old gentry familynote  and Catherine Gordon (heiress to the Scottish estate of Gight, in Aberdeenshire), who married in 1785. His clubfoot was a very touchy subject for him, and he had to wear shoes for it. By the time George was born in 1788, "Mad Jack" had squandered most of Catherine's money, and she took her son to Aberdeen to eke out an existence on the remaining crumbs and a small trust fund; "Mad Jack" died of tuberculosis in 1791. In 1798, then 10 years old, George unexpectedly inherited the title and the family seat at Newstead Abbey from his great-uncle William, the 5th Baron Byron, and his mother proudly took him to England. The Abbey, however, was in a state of disrepair, and she decided to lease it to a Lord Grey de Ruthyn, among others, during Byron's adolescence, but Byron himself was wowed by its ghostly halls and spacious ruins.

Byron received his early formal education at Aberdeen Grammar School, and in August 1799, entered a school in Dulwich. His mother, however, interfered with his studies, often withdrawing him from school, and thus he lacked discipline and ended up neglecting his classical studies. He was then sent to Harrow School in 1801, where he remained until July 1805. In 1803 he fell in love with his distant cousin, Mary Chaworth, who was older and already engaged, and when she rejected him, she became the symbol for Byron of idealized and unattainable love. He probably met Augusta Byron, his half-sister from his fatherís first marriage, that same year.

In 1805, Byron went to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he acquired an alarming amount of debt and indulged in the vices of the undergraduates then. Most notably, he engaged in multiple sexual escapades with women and men; one of his escapades was what Byron described as "a violent, though pure, love and passion" for a young chorister named John Edleston. In 1806, he published his first volume of poetry, Fugitive Pieces. That same year, he befriended John Cam Hobhouse, who instilled into him an interest in Whiggism, and Francis Hodgson, a fellow of King's College with whom he corresponded on literary matters.

In adulthood, he was famous for scandalous behaviour and was a romantic but outrageous figure of rumour and gossip. He gave two memorable speeches in the House of Lords. One was a Deadpan Snarker rant objecting to a proposal legislating the death penalty for framebreakingtraditional hand-weavers sabotaging mechanical looms that were putting them out of business. He pointed out that cloth made by machines wasn't nearly as high quality or long-lasting. Later he spoke up for Catholic emancipation (Catholics couldn't vote or own property) and against having an official state religion.

His poems include the semi-autobiographical Childe Harold's Pilgrimage and the long Narrative Poem Alternative Character Interpretation Don Juan.

The women in his life included:

  • Lady Caroline Lamb, wife of the future Prime Minister Viscount Melbourne. She described him as "mad, bad, and dangerous to know"... before their affair even started.
  • Augusta Leigh, his half-sister. Augusta (who was married) had a third daughter, Medora Leigh, who may (or may not) have been Byron's child.
  • Lady Caroline's cousin, Anne Isabella Milbanke, whom Byron married. The marriage was not happy, but produced one daughter, Ada Byron. Ada later married the Earl of Lovelace, becoming known as "Ada Lovelace". Anne regarded Lord Byron's brooding Romanticism as a form of insanity, and so raised Ada with a focus on logic and mathematics so she would not Turn Out Like Her Father. As a result, Ada came to be interested in the sciences, and worked with Charles Babbage in his development of mechanical computing machines. When Babbage designed his (never-built) Analytical Engine, it was Ada who recognised the possibility that these machines could be used to manipulate any kind of information, and not simply conduct elaborate mathematical calculations. She thus became the person after whom the programming language Ada was named in recognition of the oft-overlooked contribution of women to computer science. All at least in part because Lord Byron's wife thought Lord Byron was mad. Despite this, Ada Lovelace did want to know her father more and requested to be buried next to him. As for Lord Byron himself, she was his sole legitimate child and he commented on their parting as such:
    Lord Byron: Is thy face like thy mother's my fair child! ADA! sole daughter of my house and heart?
  • Claire Clairmont, the step-sister of Mary Shelley (the author of Frankenstein). They had a daughter, Allegra, who died at the age of 5. Byron was very good friends with Shelley, and was famously present for her first reading of Frankenstein.

Byron took part in the Greek War of Independence (1821-1830). He died, after being repeatedly bled with dirty surgical instruments, of a fever contracted while in Messolonghi in Greece, in 1824 at the age of 36. He is regarded as a hero in Greece for his humanitarian aid to the cause of independence.

Along with being associated with Greece, he was fascinated by Armenian culture and history and immersed himself therein, learning the language and creating translations of significant Armenian works. He is considered the founder of modern Armenian studies.

Works by Lord Byron on the wiki:


Tropes from the works of Lord Byron:

  • Anti-Hero: Byron liked these so much that a certain type are often called "Byronic heroes".
  • Blue Blood: To be a Byronic Hero, it helps to have the leisure to spend your time learning, travelling, brooding, and womanising (and man-ising), and so most of Byron's heroes are aristocrats like himself.
  • Byronic Hero: Obviously. Byron used this type of character very often, and he was considered to be one himself in real life. Byron's description of Conrad, the protagonist of The Corsair, provides the general essence of the character:
    He knew himself a villainóbut he deem'd
    The rest no better than the thing he seem'd;
    And scorn'd the best as hypocrites who hid
    Those deeds the bolder spirit plainly did.
    He knew himself detested, but he knew
    The hearts that loath'd him, crouch'd and dreaded too.
    Lone, wild, and strange, he stood alike exempt
    From all affection and from all contempt:
  • Cain: Cain tells the story of Cain and Abel but through Cain's eyes. Being the Trope Maker for that trope, Cain is interpreted as a Byronic Hero and Anti-Hero, viewing him as symbolic of a sanguine temperament, provoked by Abel's hypocrisy and sanctimony.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: "The Destruction of Sennacherib," based on the Biblical account of the Assyrian siege of Jerusalem.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: "She Walks in Beauty" doesn't go deeply into moral questionsnote , but it makes an excellent case that darkness is not aesthetically bad.
    She walks in beauty, like the night
    Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
    And all that's best of dark and bright
    Meet in her aspect and her eyes
    Thus mellow'd to that tender light
    Which heaven to gaudy day denies.
  • The End of the World as We Know It: "Darkness" is a fanciful description of one such scenario, caused by the sun being "extinguish'd."
  • Feeling Their Age: "So We'll Go No More a Roving" has the 29-year-old Byron lament that he can't be quite as wild a partier as he used to be:
    For the sword outwears its sheath,
    And the soul wears out the breast,
    And the heart must pause to breathe,
    And love itself have rest.
  • Gorgeous Greek: Byron had a soft spot for female Greeks as heroines that often had tragic romances with his protagonists such as Haydée in Don Juan. No doubt this was influenced by Philehellenism (love for Greek culture).
  • The Night That Never Ends: "Darkness" explores the effects of one.
  • Pirate: The Corsair, published in 1814, tells the story of Conrad, a wild and ruthless Aegean pirate whose only virtue is the love he feels for the gentle Medora.
  • Take That!: Byron notably did not think highly of John Keats. Even though he had some begrudging respect for the other poet, conceding that the Hyperion is a "fine monument", he mocked how Keats was killed off by a bad review throughout his life. To name one example among many, Byron wrote a squib in response to learning that Percy Bysshe Shelley accused the Quarterly of killing Keats:
    "Who kill'd John Keats?"
    "I," says the Quarterly,
    "So savage and Tartarly;
    'Twas one of my feats."


    "Who shot the arrow?"
    "The poet-priest Milman
    (So ready to kill man),
    Or Southey or Barrow."

Has featured in the following works:

Comic Books

Film

  • The opening to Bride of Frankenstein, in which he and Percy Shelley are entertained by Mary Shelley's telling of the narrative of the movie.
  • He is portrayed by Gabriel Byrne in the 1986 horror film Gothic, which depicts a fictionalized version of Percy and Mary Shelley's visit to Byron at Villa Diodati.
  • He is depicted by Tom Sturridge in the 2017 autobiographical period drama Mary Shelley.

Literature

Live-Action TV

Theatre

  • Arcadia
  • He is referred to in the works of Henrik Ibsen, and is one of the many candidates for modelling "the unknown passenger" in Peer Gynt.

Webcomics

Western Animation


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