His Life

    George Gordon, better known as Lord Byron, was born with a caul and a club-foot on January 22, 1788, in London. Throughout his life he was very sensitive about his foot and flew into a temper when attention was called to it. In order to not be looked down upon or pittied over his hanicap, Byron acted with exaggerated masculinity. He and his family were poor throughout his young life and during this time, they all lived in Aberdeen, Scotland where Byron attented grammer school. At the age of ten, when Byron's uncle died, George Gordon became the sixth Lord Byron. He inherited the Nottingham estates and his ancestral home of Newstead. It was at Nottingham that Byron was subjected to the maid May Gray who mistreated the boy thorugh drunkenness, beatings, neglect, and sexual liberties. This abuse was not stopped early enough to protect the boy from the psychological injury in the premature initiation into sex-play.

Here's an interesting note: (His family had a long tradition of marrying its cousins, consequently, there were some oddities among their ancestors. Byron's grandfather hated his sons and spent a great deal of time trying to destroy their estate, Newstead. He hoped to leave nothing for his sons, so he encouraged swarms of crickets to run throughout the house.)

For Byron's schooling, he was first sent to Dr. Glennie's Academy and afterwards to prestigious Harrow in 1801. In the beggining, he had a hard time at Harrow, where he had to fist-fight in order to earn respect and admiration from his fellow classmates. He also defended himself against the taunts from his classmates regarding his lame foot. By the age of fifteen, Byron was having an easier time with his classmates and was enjoying his Harrow experience much more.

    In 1803, Byron fell in love with his cousin, Mary Ann; but when she married someone else, he became quite wild. He started school at Trinity College in Cambridge in 1805, but did none of the work, believing that laziness was in fashion. He wrote many verses and spent money continuously. In 1808, Byron received his master's degree from Cambridge, and he and his friends went on a tour of the Middle East. During his tour, Byron spent some time in Greece, where he swam the Hellespont, a distance of 3 miles.

    Upon his return to England after his Middle East tour in 1811, he was faced with many sad times. His mother had died of a stroke before he saw her again, his best friend drowned, and his half-sister, Augusta, was struggling with a ruined marriage. At the insistence of a friend, he published the first two cantos of Childe Harold's Pilgrimage which became an instant success. Women flocked to him after this publication, and he had many affairs. The most noted being with Lady Caroline Lamb. In 1813, Augusta came to visit Byron, and they had an affair. However, a year later he was proposing to Anabella, Lady Caroline's cousin. Anabella and Byron were married on January 2, 1815. They had their first child, whom they named Augusta Ada, in December of that year. In February of 1816, Anabella asked for a separation and Byron granted it. After the formal separation, on April 25, 1816, Byron left England forever. Consequently, London society shunned Byron, and they were very upset when he resumed his earlier wanderings across the Continent which was an open defiance of the British middle-class morality.

    In April of 1816, Byron took another trip to Continental Europe. He stayed in Italy for quite some time, where he had an affair with the Countess Guicioli. The affair created quite a scandal. No one was surprised that she was married, it was expected that Italian women had affairs. However, Byron stayed in her house along with her husband, shocking society. In February of 1824, Byron suffered an epileptic seizure. Two months afterwards, he caught a chill from horseback riding in a storm and never recovered. He was wracked with extreme delirium for many days and finally died on April 19, 1824. Byron was mourned by the Greeks as a naional hero, and was regarded throughout Europe as "the Trumpet Voice of Liberty." On July 16, 1824, Lord Byron was laid to rest in Hucknall Torkard Church near his ancestrial home, Newstead.

Katharine Ellingson

Source: Trueblood, Paul G. Lord Byron. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1969.

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