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English 11 AP – K. Curran, Instructor. “Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to Know”: Meet George Gordon, Lord Byron. George Gordon, Lord Byron (1788 – 1824). Byron was a Romantic Poet who was famous throughout Europe, both for his literary works and for his antics and escapades.
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English 11 AP – K. Curran, Instructor “Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to Know”:Meet George Gordon, Lord Byron
George Gordon, Lord Byron (1788 – 1824) • Byron was a Romantic Poet who was famous throughout Europe, both for his literary works and for his antics and escapades. • Byron worked very closely with PB Shelley for a couple of years, and was also a fan of “Kubla Khan”, by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. • Byron was wealthy and indulged.
Bryon’s father (known as “Mad Jack”) left his mother when Byron was still very young. Byron’s mother suffered from depression after that. His grandfather killed himself. Byron also wrote that his governess used to crawl in bed with him at night and, as he put it, “play tricks with my person.” Perhaps it is no surprise that he was a bit messed up. Byron’s Early Life
More Strange Details: • Byron “fell in love” with two different cousins when he was quite young. • He acknowledged having “adult sexual feelings” for a girl when he was eight. • In his late teens, he fell in love with a 15 year old choirboy (and wore the boy’s ring for the rest of his life) • In 1810 he offered £500 for the hand in marriage of a 12 year old Greek girl. Denied!
More Weird Romance • Byron had an affair with Caroline Lamb, who dressed as a boy in an attempt to keep him interested. She failed. • Byron appears to have had an affair with his (married) half-sister, Augusta Leigh. When she had a child at this time, it was unclear whether the baby was her husband’s or her brother’s. Yikes!
Marriage and Children • Byron married Lady Caroline’s cousin Anne, and they had a daughter named Augusta Ada. Byron didn’t stick around too long, and his wife maintained custody of the little girl. • Lady Caroline and her cousin began a smear campaign against Byron, and he was run out of England, never to return. He made his way to the Continent, and started collecting countesses! (Somehow the accusations of sodomy and incest were less troubling there.)
Lake Geneva • Byron met up with PB and Mary Shelley, as well as Clair Clairmont at Lake Geneva in Switzerland • He had had an affair with Clair in the past, and tried to avoid her. Somehow, she still managed to get pregnant with his child.
Frankenstein • In Lake Geneva, Mary Shelley was inspired to write Frankenstein, which is not a horror show, but a terrifying tale of the folly of “playing god” • Byron’s doctor, John Polidori, wrote The Vampyre, which is the pre-cursor of all modern Vampire stories. (Including Twilight!)
Venice • Byron then traveled to Venice, where he had affairs with two different married women at once. When they fought, he would sleep in his gondola. (LOL!) • One of the women threw herself in the canal and drowned after fighting with Byron.
Enough Partying Already! • The deaths of Keats, Shelley, and his five year old daughter Allegra left Byron heartbroken, and searching his soul. • A true Romantic, he went off to fight for the Greeks in their war for independence from the Ottoman empire. He died of an infection (not an STD, surprisingly.) He is considered a hero in Greece – they built statues in his honor and kept his heart when he died!
Poetry – She Walks in Beauty She walks in beauty, like the night Of cloudless climes and starry skies; And all that's best of dark and bright Meet in her aspect and her eyes Thus mellow'd to that tender light Which heaven to gaudy day denies. One shade the more, one ray the less, Had half impair'd the nameless grace Which waves in every raven tress, Or softly lightens o'er her face; Where thoughts serenely sweet express How pure, how dear their dwelling place. And on that cheek, and o'er that brow, So soft, so calm, yet eloquent, The smiles that win, the tints that glow, But tell of days in goodness spent, A mind at peace with all below, A heart whose love is innocent!
So We’ll Go No More A-Roving So, we'll go no more a roving So late into the night, Though the heart be still as loving,And the moon be still as bright.For the sword outwears its sheath,And the soul wears out the breast, And the heart must pause to breathe, And love itself have rest.Though the night was made for loving, And the days return too soon, Yet we'll go no more a roving By the light of the moon.
Most Famous Poems • “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage” is a thinly- veiled account of his own school days. It is quite bizarre in places, not surprisingly. • Byron’s most famous poem is “Don Juan” (pronounced “Joo-on”), is about a tragically flawed but idealistic hero who can’t help but be seduced by women. This type of character later comes to be known as the “Byronic Hero”, which is an archetype. “Don Juan” is long, satirical, and quite funny.
Sources Gratefully Cited: • http://www.love-poems.me.uk/byron_so_well_go_no_more_aroving.htm • http://www.poetry.com/LovePoems/lovepoem.asp?id=81 • http://www.rc.umd.edu/reference/chronologies/byronchronology/index.html • http://www.literaturecollection.com/a/lord-byron/