January 22, 1788
Born In: London, England
Died On: April 19, 1824
Career: Poet & Politician
Known for his love affairs with women and Mediterranean boys throughout his life, Lord Byron was, nonetheless, an important figure in the English literature. With many popular works, active life and physical beauty to his credit, Byron was considered to be the perfect image of a romantic poet-hero. He is best remembered for his brief poems ‘She Walks in Beauty’, ‘When We Two Parted’, ‘Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage’ and ‘Don Juan’. It was due to this exemplary work that he had largely influenced European poetry, music, novels, operas, and even, paintings. The concept of ‘Byronic hero’ was his creation that defined a defiant, melancholy young man, brooding on mysterious and unforgettable past. Read further to learn about the childhood and career of Lord Byron.
Childhood & Education
Lord Byron was born George Gordon Byron to Captain John ‘Mad Jack’ Byron and his second wife, Lady Catherine Gordon in London, at 16 Holles Street, Cavendish Square. He was born into the family of fast-declining nobility. His father was a gold digger who married Catherine, heiress of Gight, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, for her annual income. Byron was born with a club-foot, about which he remained sensitive throughout his life. After Catherine’s father died in 1779, she had to sell her land to pay off her father’s debts. Soon after, John Byron squandered her fortune and separated from Catherine and young Byron. He then died a year later.
Thereafter, Catherine, along her son, moved to Aberdeen in Scotland where Byron spent his childhood. After the death of Byron’s great uncle, the “wicked” Lord Byron in 1798, he inherited the title and the estate, Newstead Abbey in Nottinghamshire, England. With this, Byron was now bestowed with the title, 6th Baron Byron. Mother Catherine and Byron moved back to England. Byron enrolled in the school of William Glennie, an Aberdonian in Dulwich in 1799. He later received his formal education at Aberdeen Grammar School. In 1801, he was sent to Harrow School, which was followed by Trinity College, Cambridge in 1805.
Change of Names
Byron was bestowed upon with several names throughout his life. He was born George, but was christened George Gordon Byron in London. Gordon was not a surname, instead a baptismal name, which Byron’s father had taken over from his father-in-law to become John Byron Gordon. When young Byron inherited the Barony of Byron, he became Lord Byron in 1798. Furthermore, on Byron’s maternal grandmother’s death, his name was again changed to Noel Byron as per her will to inherit her estate. As such, he was sometimes referred to as Lord Noel Byron in his later years.
After completing his education, Byron spent the first few years with his mother in Southwell, Nottinghamshire, where he made friends with Elizabeth Pigot and her brother, John. He even acted in two plays that were organized for the community. It was during this time that Byron gained an interest in writing, leading to his first volume of poetry titled ‘Fugitive Pieces’. This volume included poems that were written, from the time Byron was 14 years old and was printed by Ridge of Newark. However, this volume was burnt only to pen down another effective and moving poem ‘To Mary’. ‘Pieces on Various Occasions’ followed next. In 1807, Byron released ‘Hours of Idleness’ which included some of his previous works with new compositions.
However, this was badly received by the audience to which Byron answered with the satire ‘English Bards And Scotch Reviewers’ in 1809. Meanwhile, Byron handled his seat in the House of Lords and traveled extensively throughout Mediterranean visiting Spain, Malta, Albania, Greece, and the Aegean. He returned in 1812 and published ‘Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage’, which he had written during his journey. This publication gained Byron the much-needed acclamation and glory. This was followed by more short poems, such as ‘The Corsair’, ‘Lara, A Tale’, ‘Oriental Tales’, ‘The Giaour’, and ‘The Bride of Abydos’.
By then, Byron had successfully established his characters and protagonists that earned him the title of ‘Byronic hero’. During this period, he met his future biographer Thomas Noore with whom he developed an intimate relationship. In 1816, Byron traveled through Belgium, Switzerland and Italy, where he settled in Rome. It was there that he penned ‘Manfred’, ‘Cain’, and ‘The Deformed Transformed’. Byron even tried his hand at drama, the most popular of all being ‘Marino Faliero’. In 1822, Byron started the newspaper ‘The Liberal’.
Marriage & Love Life
Byron was known for his numerous love affairs and scandals with both men and women. His first love affair started off with Lady Carolina, wife of future Prime Minister, William Lamb. Next came an incestuous relationship with his half-sister, Augusta Leigh. To avoid such scandals, Byron married Anna Isabella Milblanke, cousin of Lady Carolina, at Seaham Hall, County Durham in 1815, which was a failure as both separated after a year on the context of giving birth to a girl, Augusta Ada. The two divorced and signed the Deed of Separation in 1816. While in Switzerland, Byron met and befriended Percy Bysshe Shelley. He also met Mary Godwin, who later became his wife. He was also reportedly known to have an affair with Mary’s step-sister, Claire Clairmont who accompanied Mary to Switzerland. He also fathered a child with her in 1917. Though not proved, Byron was believed to father Augusta Leigh’s child, Elizabeth Medora Leigh. Such was his interest in women that he did not even spare his maid employed at Newstead with whom he had a son.
In 1823, Byron started spending liberally on Greek insurgents. Along with Prince Alexandros Mavrokordatos, leader of the Greek rebel forces, he even planned an attack on Turkish-held fortress of Lepanto in 1824. However, Byron fell terribly ill and the bleeding only worsened his condition. Though he partially recovered, Byron caught a violent cold followed by a violent fever. Byron died on April 19, 1824. The Greeks mourned badly declaring him a national hero. His body was embalmed and sent to Westminster Abbey, but was refused. According to some sources, his heart remains buried under a tree in Messolonghi as the Greeks wanted a part of their hero to stay with them. His body laid unnoticed for two days in London and was later buried at the Church of St. Mary Magdalene in Hucknall, Nottingham beside his daughter, Ada Lovelace whom he had never known.
Hours of Idleness (1807)
English Bards and Scotch Reviewers (1809)
Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, Cantos I & II (1812)
The Giaour (1813)
The Bride of Abydos (1813)
The Corsair (1814)
Lara, A Tale (1814)
Childe Harold's Pilgrimage (1818)
Don Juan (1819–1824; incomplete on Byron's death in 1824)
Marino Faliero (1820)
The Deformed Transformed (1822)
1788: Lord Byron was born in London, England
1798: Inherited the title 6th Baron Byron
1805: Entered Trinity College, Cambridge
1807: ‘Hours of Idleness’ was released
1809: Traveled across Europe for two years
1815: Married Anna Isabella Milblanke on January 2nd
1822: Started the newspaper ‘The Liberal’
1824: Lord Byron died in Messolonghi, Aetolia-Acarnania, Greece aged 36