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September 11, 2006 | by  | in Books | [ssba]

Lord Byron (1788-1824)

Born with a lame foot, a tendency toward obesity and great deal of vanity, Byron’s insecurity haunted his life and his works. To make up for physical deficiencies, Byron became an infamous socialite and satirical wit. It is said that, at one point, he kept a pet bear in his rooms at Trinity College in Cambridge. In 1811 Byron embarked on a Grand Tour through the Mediterranean, which influenced him greatly. Byron’s epic poem, Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage launched his career overnight. He apparently remarked later that, “I awoke and found myself famous.” Byron’s following epic works, Manfred and Don Juan (highly recommended) enhanced his exciting reputation. The concept of a “Byronic hero” was born. Famous and young, Byron had liaisons with several women, one of which described him as being “mad, bad and dangerous to know.” In Geneva he first met the poet Shelley, and a lifelong friendship began. While staying with Byron, Shelley, noting his friends eccentricities, wrote in a letter that: “Lord B.’s establishment consists, besides servants, of ten horses, eight enormous dogs, three monkeys, five cats, an eagle, a crow, and a falcon; and all these, except the horses, walk about the house.” After Shelley’s early death, Byron sailed for Greece to take part in the rebellion against the Turks (as you do). In 1824, at the age of thirty-six, he died of a fever. While he was revered as a hero to the Greeks, his reputation in England was still sullied by his unsavoury personal life and controversial poetry.


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