LORD GEORGE GORDON BYRON, (1788 – 1824) British
A gifted poet with dashing looks gilded with the rank, he was the 6th baron, born to a strong willed heiress and a profligate father. He as a boy lived in penury. Byron became Lord Byron at the age of ten and had a unstable childhood reared under an overbearing mother and seduced at the age of nine by a wicked nurse Mary Gay. He was bruised by childhood traumas: his life with mother made him aware of the eccentric and wild side of his ancestors and his mother was certain he would turn out to be like his scapegrace father. He spent his childhood divided between Scotland and in London. The story of Cain and the idea of evil done under compulsion, and the man cursed for his sin haunted his imagination. He was in a sense one who did his best to outrun his doomladen heredity real or imagined.
When he came to the title he was brought to Newstead Abbey, the family seat with a capital of £75. Sent to Harrow he was set to prove himself. He excelled himself in games, swimming and began to write verses. He also fell, in and out of love a trait which was to last for the rest of his life.
He as the poet himself confessed, found himself overnight famous – despite all the accomplishment his congenital clubfoot drove him to despair and as a child loved the solitude of the tombs and there it must have first filled him with the transience of earthly glory. His attitude of ironic despair and his aspirations for political liberty made him the universal symbol of the Romantic poet. Partly his personality and largely his poetry captured the imagination of Europe.
In 1812 he gave his politically radical maiden speech in the House of the Lords and published his autobiographical poem ‘Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage’. Byron was then swept into a tide of fame and unfortunate love affairs; during this period he wrote the oriental tales ‘The Giaour’ and the ‘Bride of Abydos’ (1813) and ‘the Corsair’ and ‘Lara’ (1814). He made a disastrous marriage in 1815 and his involvement with his pretty and shallow half-sister ended in a scandal, which made the poet an outcast in London social circles. He was divorced in the following year and then embarked into a self-imposed exile to Europe. During his last years, he wrote ‘Don Juan’, a masterpiece in its genre and the ‘Prophecy of Dante’ and ‘Cain’ (1821).
He entered into the fight for Greek independence (1823-’24). During the misadventures that followed Byron steadfastly helped the Greek cause and he died of a fever.
Trivia: He called his wife Annabelle Millibanke ‘Princess of Parallelogram. Their daughter was Ada who extended the practical use of the ‘computer’ developed by Charles Babbage.
While chatting with a clergy man who had much common sense Lord Byron grumbled at the twist of fate. The clergyman tried to convince the Providence against which he protested had endowed him with rich array of blessings,-his rank, wit, fortune and above all a mind that placed him above the rest of the mankind.
‘Ah, my friend,’ said Byron mournfully pointing to his forehead, ‘if this paces me above the rest of mankind,’ and pointing to his foot, ‘that places me far, far below them.’