A-Z: General definitions: George Byron


Byron, George Gordon (1788-1824) was one of the leading Romantic poets whose scandalous personal life brought him as much notoriety as his poetry brought him fame.

He spent much of his childhood in Scotland, before he inherited the title of sixth Lord Byron in 1798, which brought with it the estate of Newstead Abbey in Nottinghamshire. He was educated at Harrow and Cambridge, where he composed his first volume of poetry, Hours of Idleness (1807). He revenged himself on his critics with English Bards and Scotch Reviewers (1809), and became really famous as a poet with the publication of the first two cantos of Childe Harold's Pilgrimage in 1812.

His complex romantic life included affairs with the wayward Lady Caroline Lamb and his half-sister Augusta, who bore him a daughter, Allegra, in 1814. He married Annabella Milbanke in 1815 and their daughter Ada was born later the same year. Meanwhile, such poems as The Bride of Abydos, The Corsair and The Giaour (all 1813) added to his poetic reputation. He separated from his wife and, shunned by society, left England for good in 1816.

He spent much of the rest of his life in Italy, often in the company of Percy Bysshe Shelley and his family. After completing Childe Harold in 1818 he embarked on a new long poem, Don Juan (1819-24), which remained unfinished, and also composed numerous other lyrics, long poems and verse plays. He became deeply attached to Countess Teresa Guccioli and also took up the cause of Italian patriotism. His daughter Allegra died in 1822, leaving Byron both grief-stricken and guilty because he had spent so little time with her.

Byron became involved in the Greek struggle for independence and formed a brigade to fight in this cause, but at Missolongh he died of a fever before he could lead his troops into battle. He was buried in Hucknall, Nottinghamshire after he was refused interment in both Westminster Abbey and St Paul's Cathedral. He was the most cosmopolitan of the Romantics, with fervent admirers all over Europe.

Scan and go

Scan on your mobile for direct link.