George Gordon Byron, 6th Baron Byron, later George Gordon Noel, 6th Baron Byron, FRS (22 January 1788 – 19 April 1824), commonly known simply as Lord Byron, was an English poet and a leading figure in the Romantic movement. Among Byron's best-known works are the lengthy narrative poems Don Juan and Childe Harold's Pilgrimage and the short lyric " She Walks in Beauty ." He is regarded as one of the greatest British poets and remains widely read and influential.
George Gordon Byron, 6th Baron Byron (January 22, 1788–April 19, 1824) was an Anglo-Scottish poet and a leading figure in Romanticism. Among his best-known works are the narrative poems Childe Harold's Pilgrimage and Don Juan. The latter remained incomplete on his death. He was regarded as one of the greatest European poets, and is still widely read.
Byron's fame rests not only on his writings, but also on his life, which featured extravagant living, numerous love affairs, debts, separation, and allegations of incest and sodomy; he was famously described by Lady Caroline Lamb as "mad, bad, and dangerous to know." Byron served as a regional leader of Italy's revolutionary organization the Carbonari in its struggle against Austria, and later travelled to fight against the Turks in the Greek War of Independence, for which the Greeks consider him a national hero. He died from fever in Missolonghi.
His daughter Ada Lovelace, notable in her own right, collaborated with Charles Babbage on the analytical engine, a predecessor to modern computers.
Beginning of poetic career
Some early verses which he had published in 1806 were suppressed. He followed those in 1807 with Hours of Idleness, which the Edinburgh Review, a Whig periodical, savagely attacked. In reply, Byron sent forth English Bards and Scotch Reviewers (1809), which created considerable stir and shortly went through five editions. While some authors resented being satirized in its first edition, over time in subsequent editions it became a mark of prestige to be the target of Byron's pen.
After his return from his travels, the first two cantos of Childe Harold's Pilgrimage were published in 1812, and were received with acclamation. In his own words, "I awoke one morning and found myself famous." He followed up his success with the poem's last two cantos, as well as four equally celebrated Oriental Tales, The Giaour, The Bride of Abydos, The Corsair, and Lara, which established the Byronic hero. About the same time began his intimacy with his future biographer, Thomas Moore.
Byron wrote prolifically. In 1833 his publisher, John Murray, released the complete works in 17 octavo volumes, including a life by Thomas Moore. His magnum opus, Don Juan, a poem spanning 17 cantos, ranks as one of the most important long poems published in England since Milton's Paradise Lost. Don Juan, Byron's masterpiece, often called the epic of its time, has roots deep in literary tradition and, although regarded by early Victorians as somewhat shocking, equally involves itself with its own contemporary world at all levels – social, political, literary and ideological.
The Byronic hero pervades much of Byron's work. Scholars have traced the literary history of the Byronic hero from Milton, and many authors and artists of the Romantic movement show Byron's influence -- during the 19th century and beyond. The Byronic hero presents an idealised but flawed character whose attributes include:
- having great talent
- exhibiting great passion
- having a distaste for society and social institutions
- expressing a lack of respect for rank and privilege
- thwarted in love by social constraint or death
- suffering exile
- hiding an unsavoury past
- ultimately, acting in a self-destructive manner