George Gordon Byron, 6th Baron Byron (22 January 1788 19 April 1824), was a Romantic poet, womaniser, and revolutionary. He gave his name to the Byronic Hero trope, by writing about Byronic heroes and being one in real life.
His childhood was fertile ground for what he became. His father, Army Captain John "Mad Jack" Byron, of a junior line of moderately old gentry familynote married his mother, Catherine Gordon (heiress to the Scottish estate of Gight, in Aberdeenshire), in 1785. 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" would die of tuberculosis in 1791. When Byron's great-uncle, the 5th Baron Byron, died childless, George, then 10 years old, inherited the title and the family seat at Newstead Abbey—which was a wreck that his mother preferred to rent out to junior gentry. Not that she spent the rent money well—she alternately spoiled George and herself, could be very stubborn, and was generally lacking in judgment.
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; 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?
- 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:
- Claire Clairmont, the step-sister of Mary Shelley (the author of Frankenstein). They had a daughter, Allegra, who died at the age of 5.
This is an incomplete list. In addition, Byron was bisexual, and had homosexual lovers as a young man. He is a good real life example of a Gentleman Snarker.
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 had a limp and wore special shoes due to being born with an abnormal right foot, and this played into his self-image as deformed. He was still an avid athlete, with boxing and swimming being two of his better known sports.
Works by Lord Byron on the wiki:
Has featured in the following works:
- He appeared in The Invisibles.
- 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 depicted by Tom Sturridge in the 2017 autobiographical period drama Mary Shelley.
- Lord Ruthven, the villain protagonist of The Vampyre by Lord Byron's doctor John William Polidori is said to be modelled on Lord Byron.
- "Missolonghi 1824", a short story by John Crowley anthologized in Poe's Children
- The Anubis Gates, a novel by Tim Powers
- The Stress of Her Regard, a novel by Tim Powers
- Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, a novel by Susanna Clarke
- The Difference Engine, a Steampunk novel by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling. In this one, he manages to survive the Greek War of Independence and becomes Prime Minister over a society that depends on the mechanical computers invented by Charles Babbage and the aforementioned Ada Lovelace.
- A computerized Byron features in Conversations with Lord Byron on Perversion, 163 Years After His Lordship's Death, a novel by Amanda Prantera
- The Missolonghi Manuscript, a novel by Frederic Prokosch
- Benjamin Markovits has published two novels of a trilogy about Lord Byron: Imposture and A Quiet Adjustment
- Lord Byron's Doctor, a novel by Paul West
- Lady Caroline Lamb, mentioned above, published Glenarvon, a roman-a-clef about her affair with Byron
- An Alternate History analogue, John Byron III, appears in a flash-forward segment of Look to the West set in 1830.
- The Twelfth Enchantment has Lord Byron involved in a magical conspiracy.
- He appears as a major character in the Regency era Steampunk thriller Moonlight, Murder & Machinery.
- In the Father Brown mystery The wrong Shape, the culprit is a Totalitarian Utilitarian who murders his victim because it was the best course of action to everyone involved (even the victim), and then:
- In Anne of the Island a few lines from "The Isle of Greece" are quoted by the girls. They're all liberal arts college students, and Anne at least is majoring in English, so they'd be well read.
- "The Modern Prometheus", an episode of Highlander: The Series
- His famous words on freedom, "Yet Freedom, thy banner torn but flying, streams like the thunderstorm against the wind", serves as the motto, and title for the Australian TV series Against the Wind, produced in 1979, taking place in Byron´s lifetime (but mostly in Australia).
- A hologram of Byron appears once on Star Trek: Voyager, trying to convince a hologram of Mahatma Gandhi to enjoy the pleasures of the flesh. Gandhi responds by recommending that Byron take a cold bath instead.
- 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.
- The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage, though only shows up in the first frame of Ada Lovelace's origin story. Still fitting, though, as he is Ada Lovelace's father.
- In an episode of The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy, he appeared to temporarily possess Billy when the latter was sleepwalking and sucking on Grim's skull and act as a form of mentor.
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.
- 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."
- 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.