Lord Byron

Lord Byron Biography:
Byron, George Gordon Noel, 6th Baron Byron (1788-1824), known as Lord Byron, English poet, who was one of the most important and versatile writers of the romantic movement. He was born in London on January 22, 1788, and educated at Harrow School and the University of Cambridge. He succeeded to the title and estates of his granduncle William, 5th Baron Byron, upon William's death in 1798. Lord Byron adopted the name Noel as his third given name in 1822, in order to receive an inheritance from his mother-in-law. In 1807 a volume of Byron's poems. Hours of Idleness, was published. An adverse review of this work in the Edinburgh Review prompted a satirical reply from Byron in heroic couplets, entitled English Bards and Scotch Reviewers (1809). In 1809 Byron took his seat in the House of Lords. Also in 1809 he began two years of travel in Portugal, Spain, and Greece.

Fame and Marriage:
The publication in 1812 of the first two cantos of Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, a poem narrating travels in Europe, brought Byron fame. The hero of the poem, Childe Harold, was the first example of what came to be known as the Byronic hero, the young man of stormy emotions who shuns humanity and wanders through life weighed down by a sense of guilt for mysterious sins of his past. The Byronic hero is, to some extent, modeled on the life and personality of Byron himself. The type recurs in his narrative poems of the following two years, which include The Giaour (1813), The Bride of Abydos (1813), The Corsair (1814), and Lara (1814). In 1815 his Hebrew Melodies was published, and in the same year Byron was married to Anna Isabella Milbanke. After giving birth to a daughter, Augusta Ada, Byron's only legitimate child, Lady Byron left her husband. In 1816, Byron agreed to legal separation from his wife. Rumors about his incestuous relationship with his half-sister Augusta and doubts about his sanity led to his being ostracized by society. Deeply embittered, Byron left England in 1816 and never returned.

In Geneva, Byron wrote the third canto of Childe Harold and the narrative poem The Prisoner of Chillon (1816). He next established residence in Venice, where in the three years from 1816 to 1819 he produced, among other works, the verse drama Manfred (1817), the first two cantos of Don Juan (1818-19), and the fourth and final canto of Childe Harold (1818). For two years Byron traveled around Italy, settling in Pisa in in 1821. He wrote the verse dramas Cain and Sardanapalus and the narrative poems Mazeppa and The Island during these years.

In 1822, with the poets Percy Bysshe Shelley and Leigh Hunt, he started at Pisa a journal called The Liberal, but Shelley's death that year and a quarrel with Hunt put an end to this venture after only three issues had been printed. Don Juan, a mock epic in 16 cantos, encompasses a brilliant satire on contemporary English society. Often regarded as Byron's greatest work, it was completed in 1823. At the the news of the revolt of the Greeks against the Ottoman Empire Byron, disregarding his weakened physical condition, in July 1823 joned the Greek insurgents at Mesolongion. he not only recruited a regiment for the cause of Greek independence but contributed large sums of money to it. The Greeks made him commander in chief of their forces in January 1824. The poet died a Mesolongion three months later.

In the history of the English Romantics, Byron has a peculiar place. However, from the English point of view, he is hardly a Romantic at all, but a survival from the 18th century and an enemy of much that the true Romantics thought mostly. Yet, the German writer Goethe regarded him as "the greatest genius of the century" saying: "He is not antique and not modern; he is like the present day". On the other hand the Italian politician and journalist  Mazzini said: "He gave a European role to English poetry; he led the genius of England on a pilgrimage through Europe." So, Byron put into poetry something that belonged to many men in his time, and that he was a pioneer of a new out look and a new art. He set his mark on a whole generation, and his fame rang from one end of Europe to another. 

Nevertheless, Wordsworth not only thought Byron's style very slovenly, but regarded him as "a monster ... a man of genius whose heart is perverted." Though Coleridge didn't scruple to enlist Byron's support in getting his plays acted, he had no high opinion of his work and thought his later poetry "Satanic". Even Keats dismissed Don Juan as "Lord Byron's last flash poem" . Blake was less violent and seems to have felt some tenderness for Byron because he was a rebel and an outcast. Yet, he too felt that something was wrong with Byron and that he was an erring. In return, Byron felt no regard for the poets who criticized him. He thought Wordsworth a bore, and says so more than once in Don Juan. Apart from "Christabel," he had a low opinion of Coleridge's work, and thought the man himself "A shabby fellow."  

Byron was an aristocratic rebel when aristocrats were leaders of new movements and new ideas; in him the poet became a man of action because the creative spirit, long discouraged and constricted, found that words alone were not enough for it, and that it must display itself in generous gesture and gallant risk. He rejected the creed of the romantic imagination. In rejecting the imagination he obeyed a deep conviction, and this rejection inspired his best work and won him a special place among the poets of his time. Byron differs from the authentic Romantics not merely in his low estimate of the imagination but in the peculiar quality and power of his wit. Indeed, his wit rises largely from his loss of belief in the imagination. There was something else deep in his nature. His emotions and intelligence were at war, and through wit he found some sort of reconciliation between them. If one side of him was given to wild dreams, another side saw that these couldn't be realized, and he resolved the discord with mockery. Even his emotions were at war with one another, and he would pass by sudden leaps from love to hatred and from admiration to contempt. 

Much of Byron's earlier poetry is deficient both in art and in truth. However, Don Juan is his masterpiece because into it he put the whole of his real self and nothing of the false self which he had manufactured for his earlier poems. He uses the whole living language as he himself knew it and spoke it. It is wonderful natural and unaffected, and the tone of the words respond with perfect ease to Byron's wayward moods.