Biography of Famous English Poet Lord Byron Part 1

About the famous English poet Lord Byron, biography and history of his poetry.

Lord Byron (1788-1824)

"The great object of life is sensation--to feel that we exist, even in pain."

George Gordon Noel Byron was born in London on January 22, 1788. As a child, his club-foot was worsened by the treatments of quack doctors, and his unbalanced mother habitually referred to him as her "little lame brat." His father, Captain John ("Mad Jack") Byron, drank himself to death by the time the boy was 3 and also managed to squander most of his wife's fortune.

Mother and son were left to grapple not only with poverty, but with a temperamental relationship with each other that alternated between outbursts of temper and maudlin fits of affection. One evening, in the course of an argument, his mother attempted to beat Byron to death with a pair of fire tongs. Meanwhile, his nurse abused him in a more gentle manner, managing to seduce the handsome young master when he was only 9 years old.

A year later, an uncle died, making Byron the 6th Baron Byron of Rochedale. With the title came a sizable inheritance and a measure of independence. The young lord was soon shipped off to Harrow School--glad to escape both mother and nurse.

Byron was beautiful, with fierce, clear, blue-gray eyes, a fine straight nose, full lips, and a delicately chiseled chin. He had chestnut hair (which he pinned up nightly) and a fair alabaster complexion. A lifelong tendency to overweight was overcome only by starvation diets and the continuous consumption of laxatives. A little over 5'7", Byron always walked with a limp. Self-conscious, he made great efforts to overcome his physical shortcomings by excelling in sports, including boxing, fencing, riding, cricket, and swimming.

At Cambridge, Byron was an indifferent student, and in order to amuse himself he kept both a tame bear and a mistress whom he liked to dress as a boy. After graduation, he lived with his mother briefly, but soon found himself bored with their quarrels and decided to leave England. He and a friend boarded a ship for Lisbon. From there he toured Spain, riding 500 mi. on horseback to Cadiz and other cities before going on to other Mediterranean countries.

When he returned to England he had in hand the 1st 2 cantos of Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, a thinly veiled autobiographical account of his travels. When published, this long romantic poem caused a national sensation and established its author as a public figure. Though he received a fortune in royalty payments, Byron gave away most of the money in order to maintain his image as an aristocratic amateur. His readings--in some of London's most fashionable homes--became famous, and though his singsong voice was not entirely pleasant, it did little to distract his fans. Women chased him, adored him, and tried to possess him. One eccentric blueblood, Lady Caroline Lamb, pursued him everywhere and climaxed her passion with a scene at a masked ball in which she cut herself and fell to the ground in a pool of blood.

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