Lord Byron played the romantic character par excellence. It was the terrible l’enfant of the 19th century. Hedonist, defiant of social conventions, brave, eccentric and, above all, one of the most outstanding poets of our history. Few figures have embodied so well that spirit, between tragic and heroic, that made his life a true legend.
About ten years ago, a small treasure was published on George Gordon, worldly known as Lord Byron: his diaries. These confidences, finally, compiled and published, offer us very revealing information about the person (not the character). In this intimate testimony, we discovered a young man who had little to do with that casanova famous for his amorous escapades.
He loved his sister. Of course, the romances that were attributed to Shelley or Polidori, for example, were never true. He had an admirable artistic sensibility. He had a cynical, blatant and even contradictory personality. It was that man who described himself as a mere observer of the world, of a world too boring, according to him, but in which he lived with absolute passion.
He also said he did not have political ideas. However, he left his life fighting for the independence of Greece. Deepening your diaries and your figure helps us, no doubt, to go beyond the classic image of Byron dressed as a pirate, always magnetic to women, a lover of scandal and adventure.
Thus, in the words of Anthony Burgess, the world still owes many recognitions to Lord Byron. We must go beyond the legend to understand the impact of his work, and thus reveal the man behind the mask.
“The great object of life is the sensation: to feel that we exist, although with pain, it is this” longing for pleasure “that leads us to games, to battle, to travel, to the intemperate but deeply felt activities of each description whose main attraction is the inseparable agitation of its realization.”
-Lord Byron to Annabella Milbanke, his future wife, September 6, 1813) –
George Gordon, Lord Byron: biography of a romantic poet
Byron’s father was a famous captain known as Mad Jack. Bad reputation followed him and, above all, his tendency to squander fortunes. In fact, that’s exactly what happened when he married Lady Catherine Gordon, a Scottish heiress. After the birth of George Gordon in Scotland in 1788, mother and son had no choice but to live in humble Aberdeen accommodation.
Little Byron was born with a deformity in his right foot, which led him to demonstrate that classic limp with which he was known. Also, it was not until he turned 10 years old that his luck, and that of his mother, improved. He inherited the title and properties of his great uncle William, the fifth baron of the Byron.
From that moment, his life made a 180 degree change. He went to Harrow, one of the most prestigious schools in England. In 1803 he fell in love with one of his cousins. It was Mary Chaworth, a girl older than him who was already engaged. This rejection and the figure of an unattainable love inspired the first poems, those that later would continue to mature in each experience, experience and adventure.
The university and the birth of the legend
In 1805, Lord Byron entered the Trinity College in Cambridge. It did not take him long to rise up as one of the brightest students, at the same time extravagant. His verses began to gain notoriety among the academic and student community. Also his behavior, his extravagant dresses and even the pet he always carried with him: a monkey.
He learned boxing, fencing, cultivated great friendships and, finally, left school after falling in love with a prostitute. He lived in Picadilly for a while and then, he returned to his mother and decided to dedicate himself to writing poetry. Thus, his first published work was Hours of Idleness, in 1807. This work earned him an almost unexpected recognition.
In 1809, Byron took a seat in the House of Lords. A position of responsibility to which he took evident party: embarked with a friend in a great tour. They went to Lisbon, crossed Spain and later spent a few months in Malta and Greece. That adventure would end in Constantinople (now Istanbul, Turkey). An evocative journey from which Byron drew great artistic inspiration.
Returning from that long journey, young Byron returned home to discover two things. The first is the death of his mother. The second is that his book Childe Harold Pilgrimage was a success and he, the most famous figure in England.
Love and friendship
In the summer of 1813, much of society was aware of the relationships Byron maintained with his half-sister Augusta Leight. She was the daughter of her father’s first marriage and the person she irrevocably loved all her life. It did not matter that she was married: the bond between the two was known by the majority.
That burden of conscience appeared in several of his works as The Giaour (1813), The Bride of Abydos (1813), The Corsair (1814) and Lara (1814). Now, in order to break once and for all with this relationship, decided to join in marriage with Annabella Milbanke. From this relationship Augusta Ada was born, who would later be the famous programmer and mathematician (Ada Lovelace).
Now, that marriage was as ephemeral as condemned to failure almost from the beginning. Rumors of Lord Byron’s relationship with his sister never stopped haunting them. Thus, after a well-settled separation, he decided to leave England and settle in Geneva, near his friend Percy Bysshe Shelley and Mary Godwin (later Mary Shelley). From those months, an intense literary and poetic production emerged that marked, without doubt, these three great authors.
“There are pilgrims of eternity, whose ship is always wandering, never cast anchor.”
Don Juan and the Independence of Greece
After leaving Switzerland, Lord Byron undertook new trips throughout Italy. This journey, between 1817 and 1821, was used, among other things, to write his greatest poem, Don Juan, a satire in the form of a picaresque verse.
In it, he revealed other aspects of his character and little-known personality so far: his satirical wit. It is a daring, comical work and lack of delicacy at moments, in which he left in question the classic image of the seducer.
Now, it was in 1822 when Byron received what were, perhaps, the worst blows of his life. First, his 5-year-old daughter, Allegra, died, which she had left in a school near Ravenna. Three months later, during a boat trip with his friend Shelley, he died when his small schooner sank. One that Don Juan had just called.
A year after those losses, Lord Byron was appointed member of the London Committee for the independence of Greece. A company in which he did not hesitate to enlist to fight for a land he loved. He was not afraid of the fight, and like any other Greek, he came with the same passion and pride to free her from the Ottoman Empire. There he was received as a hero and also wrote what was his last composition: At my thirty-six years.
It is said that he himself predicted his own death months before. While preparing with his guerrilla an attack on the Turkish fortress of the Gulf of Corinth, he fell ill. There is talk of malaria, also epileptic seizures. However, biographers point out that the main cause of their loss was poor medical treatment based on terrible bloodletting and the consequent sepsis.