Lord Byron’s Life
One of the greatest poets in British history, George Gordon Byron played a leading role in the English Romantic movement. Born on January 22, 1788 in London, he was the son of Captain John “Mad Jack” Byron, and Catherine Gordon. Catherine was the second wife of John Byron, and the heiress of an estate in Scotland. To claim Catherine’s estate, Byron’s father adopted the additional surname of Gordon, and became John Byron Gordon. Hence, Byron also used his father’s surname, “George Byron Gordon” for some time. When Byron turned ten, he inherited the English Barony of Byron of Rochdale, and became Lord Byron.
Before Byron was born, his father fell into heavy debt. He and Catherine fled to France in 1786 to ward off creditors, but they returned to England in 1787 to give birth to Byron on English soil. They soon settled in Aberdeenshire, where Byron spent his early days. However, his father formed a bad habit of borrowing money from his wife. She had previously been forced to sell her property to pay off debts, but as he continued to borrow money from her after Byron’s birth, the couple quickly broke up. John passed away in 1791.
Byron studied at Aberdeen Grammar School, but his mother kept on interfering with his studies, frequently withdrawing him from one school, and getting him admitted to another. In 1801, Byron went to study at Harrow, where he met Mary Chaworth and fell deeply in love with her. In 1805, Byron went to study at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he formed close associations with prominent literary figures of that time. Due to these literary friendships, Byron developed a taste for writing poetry and received encouragement to write it himself. Subsequently, Byron published his first collection of poems “Fugitive Pieces” at the age of just fourteen. Byron became famous after publishing his first two cantos from “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage” in 1812.
Although Byron won a reputation as a great author of his time, he constantly involved himself in a number of love affairs, and attracted many girls on account of his good looks. In 1815, he married Annabella Millbanke, an heiress of her wealthy uncle. However, this marriage broke down due to his liaisons with other women. Byron, just like his father, accumulated debts through his financial irresponsibility. To avoid debts and ward off rumors of an incestuous relationship with his half-sister, he left England in 1816 and never returned. Subsequently, he traveled to Eastern and European countries. Never content with a calm life, Byron planned an assault on the Turkish-held fortress of Lepanto for the cause of Greek independence. However, prior to launching the expedition, he fell seriously ill due to therapeutic bloodletting. Byron likely developed sepsis, which led to his death on April 19, 1824.
Lord Byron’s Works
Byron was a prolific writer. He published his first collection of poems “Fugitive Pieces” in 1806, which received heavy criticism because of the depiction of eroticism. However, he republished these poems after massive editing and included some new poems as “Poems on Various Occasions,” which was further edited as “Hours of Idleness.”
While traveling, Byron produced a highly creative work “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage,” which made him very popular. Byron published works frequently from 1813 to 1816, taking his inspiration from his travels to Greece and Turkey. He published “The Giaour” and “The Bride of Abydos” in 1813. Then “The Corsair” and “Lara” followed in 1814. After a two-year gap, Byron published “Parisina” and “The Siege of Corinth.” He also published a popular mock epic poem “Don Juan,” which won him accolades from the literary circles.
Lord Byron’s Style and Popular Poems
Lord Byron was a Romantic poet, who had a specific idea about nature and life. He used several poetic devices to express the themes of his poems. He mostly wrote epics and lyric poems. Byron employed meter, anapest, iambs, blank verse, heroic couplets, Hudibrastic verse, terzains, quatrains, and rhyme royal in his diverse poetry. His most popular poems are “She Walks in Beauty,” “When We Two Parted,” “Darkness,” “The Destruction of Sennacherib,” “The Dream,” “Solitude,” “Lara,” and several others.
More About Him
Byron also worked in the British Parliamentary, and won his seat in the House of Lords in 1803. He strongly advocated for social reforms. Byron’s masterpiece, Don Juan, stands as one of the most prominent lengthy poems published in England after “Paradise Lost” by John Milton.