Biography of Famous English Poet Lord Byron Part 2

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

Lord Byron (1788-1824)

Byron's already dubious reputation was further undermined when rumors began to circulate concerning an incestuous relationship between the poet and his half sister. Augusta Leigh was a beauty who was said to resemble her younger half brother closely, and the 2 had come to know each other only as adults. Though he did absolutely nothing to deny the gossip, Byron became so worried over the state of his own morals that he turned to marriage. The woman he chose was the stunning Anne Isabella Milbanke, a respectable, highly educated mathematician who hoped that she could tame "the wild lord."

Yet on the wedding night Byron told her: "It is enough for me that you are my wife for me to hate you!" Shortly afterwards, she became pregnant, and his conduct toward her bordered on the insane. He tormented her by shooting off guns in her bedroom and demanded that his sister live with them, for Augusta was the only one who could calm his rages.

Lady Byron's request for a separation, following the birth of their daughter, affirmed public belief in the old stories of Byron's incest. Though his poetry was more popular than ever, he was socially ostracized. He chose to exile himself from England. Naturally, he left in truly "Byronic" style. His coach, designed after that of his hero, Napoleon, contained a bed, library, and complete dining and cooking facilities.

Travel, writing, and dissipation were easy, as the money continued to roll in. Not only was this his most creative literary period, but Byron himself estimated that he managed to involve himself with over 200 women, mostly of the lower class. In Switzerland, he spent time with the poet Shelley and his wife Mary, and resumed his love affair with Mrs. Shelley's 17-year-old stepsister. The affair resulted in a daughter, Allegra.

At the age of 31, Byron settled in Venice and began his longest affair. He was involved with the Countess Teresa Guiccioli for nearly 5 years as they traveled through Italy together. Whenever family matters demanded it, the countess would return to her husband, bringing her lover to live with them as well.

Bored with his mistress and looking for action, Byron decided to go to Greece and fight for Greek liberation from the Turkish empire. He had long before identified himself with the cause of "liberalism," once using his hereditary seat in the House of Lords to deliver a celebrated attack on industrialists and monopolies. In Missolonghi, a swampy hole of a town, he drilled troops and advanced money for building fortifications and providing medical provisions.

Yet the excesses of his life had left the would-be military hero in poor health. He became subject to convulsions and attacks of malarial fever. His face grew so swollen that he was barely recognizable. Bloodletting further weakened him, and he died at 6 P.M. on Easter in 1824, aged 36 years and 3 months.

His heart and lungs were buried in Greece, but the rest of his remains were sent to England. The authorities refused to permit his interment at Westminster Abbey.

"His misfortune is an habitual passion for excitement," Byron's wife had written. Sensationalism is the essence of his poetry. His best works--Childe Harold, Don Juan (unfinished), and Manfred--are speedy rhymed-verse narrative, vibrating with the excesses of Byron's sexual energy.

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