Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Lord Byron

It's the birthday of the Romantic poet Lord Byron, (books by this author) born George Gordon in London, England (1788). He is best known for his poem Don Juan, which he never completed. It was considered one of the most important poems in English since Milton's Paradise Lost. Byron is also known for having lived an extravagant lifestyle, and he was considered controversial in his own time.

Byron was born with a clubfoot, and he was sensitive about his lameness throughout his life. This did not prevent him from living flamboyantly and becoming romantically involved with several women, including the wife of a viscount.

Byron was fond of animals, especially his dog, Boatswain, and Byron nursed the animal when it became infected with rabies. His lifestyle, good looks, and lameness contributed to what we call the Byronic legend.

Byron's maternal grandfather, also his namesake, committed suicide the year after Byron was born. As a result, Byron's mother Lady Catherine had to sell her property and title to pay for her father's large debts. Byron's father was named "Mad Jack" Byron, and he squandered his wife's remaining fortune before they separated. Byron moved with his mother to Aberdeen, Scotland, where they lived in poverty until Byron reached the age of 10 and became the sixth Baron Byron.

After studying at Cambridge, Byron became a well-known poet and politician in London, though he was just as well known because of constant rumors concerning his romantic life. Byron left England after his marriage to Annabella Milbanke abruptly ended, and he spent time in Geneva with Mary Shelley and Percy Bysshe Shelley. Then Byron moved to Italy, where he lived for two years. It was during this time that Byron wrote Don Juan and other famous poems.

Byron's life ended in bizarre fashion. After leaving Italy, Byron was contacted by representatives of Greek rebels seeking independence from the Ottoman Empire. They asked for his help, and Byron eagerly gave it. He spent freely from his own fortune to upgrade the rebel military, he assumed control of part of the military forces, and he collaborated with the rebel leader regarding plans of attack. But Byron became sick before he saw any military action. The typical remedy of bleeding only made his condition worse, and he died.

Lord Byron said, "Actions are our epochs."

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