Biography Lord George Gordon Byron
- Time Period1788 - 1824
Lord George Gordon Byron ( Jan. 22, 1788, London, -- April 19, 1824, Missolonghi, Greece) was the son of Captain John "Mad Jack" Byron and his second wife, Catherine Gordon of Gight, a Scots heiress. After her husband had squandered most of her fortune, Mrs. Byron took her infant son to Aberdeen, where they lived in lodgings on a meagre income. The captain died in France
in 1791. His son, George Gordon Byron, had been born with a clubfoot and early developed an extreme sensitivity to his lameness. In 1798, at age 10, he unexpectedly inherited the title and estates of his great-uncle William, the 5th Baron Byron. His mother proudly took him to England, where the boy fell in love with the ghostly halls and spacious ruins of Newstead Abbey, which had been presented to the Byrons by Henry VIII.
After living at Newstead for a while, Byron was sent to school in London, and in 1801 he went to Harrow, one of England's most prestigious schools. In 1805 Byron entered Trinity College, Cambridge. In 1806 Byron had his early poems privately printed in a volume entitled Fugitive Pieces, and that same year he formed at Trinity what was to be a lifelong friendship with John Hobhouse, who stirred his interest in liberal Whiggism.
Byron's first published volume of poetry, Hours of Idleness, appeared in 1807. A sarcastic critique of the book in The Edinburgh Review provoked his retaliation in 1809 with a couplet satire, English Bards and Scotch Reviewers,in which he attacked the contemporary literary scene. This work gained him his first recognition.
On reaching his majority in 1809, Byron took his seat in the House of Lords, and then embarked with Hobhouse on a grand tour. They sailed to Lisbon, crossed Spain, and proceeded by Gibraltar and Malta to Greece, and to Tepelene in Albania. In Greece Byron began Childe Harolde's Pilgrimage, which he continued in Athens.
Byron arrived back in London in July 1811, but his mother died before he could reach her at Newstead. At the beginning of March, the first two cantos of Childe Harold's Pilgrimage were published by John Murray and Byron "woke to find himself famous."
During the summer of 1813, Byron apparently entered into intimate relations with his half sister Augusta, now married to Colonel George Leigh. He then carried on a flirtation with Lady Frances Webster as a diversion from this dangerous liaison. Seeking to escape his love affairs in marriage, Byron proposed in September 1814 to Anne Isabella (Annabella) Milbanke. The marriage took place in January 1815, and Lady Byron gave birth to a daughter, Augusta Ada, in December 1815. From the start the marriage was doomed by the gulf between Byron and his unimaginative and humorless wife; and in January 1816 Annabella left Byron to live with her parents. Byron went abroad in April 1816, never to return to England.
Byron sailed up the Rhine River into Switzerland and settled at Geneva, near Percy Bysshe Shelley and Mary Godwin, who had eloped, and Godwin's stepdaughter by a second marriage, Claire Clairmont, with whom Byron had begun an affair in England. There he wrote the third canto of Childe Harold (1816). At the end of the summer the Shelley party left for England, where Claire gave birth to Byron's illegitimate daughter Allegra in January 1817. In October Byron and Hobhouse departed for Italy.
In the light, mock-heroic style of Beppo; Byron found the form in which he would write his greatest poem, Don Juan, a satire in the form of a picaresque verse tale. The first two cantos of Don Juan were begun in 1818 and published in July 1819. Meeting with Countess Teresa Gamba Guiccioli, who was only 19 years old and married to a man nearly three times her age, re-energized Byron and changed the course of his life. Byron followed Countess Teresa to Ravenna, and she later accompanied him back to Venice. He won the friendship of her father and brother, Counts Ruggero and Pietro Gamba, who initiated him into the secret society of the Carbonari and its revolutionary aims to free Italy from Austrian rule.
He arrived in Pisa in November 1821, having followed Teresa and the Counts Gamba there after the latter had been expelled from Ravenna for taking part in an abortive uprising. But by 1823 Byron was becoming bored with the domesticity of life with Teresa, and in April 1823 he agreed to act as
agent of the London Committee, which had been formed to aid the Greeks in their struggle for independence from the Turks. In July 1823 Byron left Genoa for Cephalonia.
But a serious illness in February 1824 weakened him, and in April he contracted the fever from which he died at Missolonghi on April 19. Deeply mourned, he became a symbol of disinterested patriotism and a Greek national hero. His body was brought back to England and, refused burial in Westminster Abbey, was placed in the family vault near Newstead. But,145 years after his death, a memorial to Byron was finally placed on the floor of the Abbey.