Beowulf 5 Essay, Research Paper
Lord Byron was born on January 22, 1788, on Holles Street, London. His parents, Catherine Gordon Byron and Jack “Mad Jack” Byron, had been living in France, but Catherine wanted their child born in England, so he was. She was a determined and frightening woman it was in her genes (www.byronjournal). Jack stayed in France, living in his sister’s house, and died in 1791, possibly by suicide. Jack (George’s father), or “Mad Jack,” died at age 36. Catherine took her son to Scotland, where they soon realized he had a lame his foot. She had special boots made and arranged treatments for him, but Byron limped all of his life. He lived through his reading, Roman history became one of his favorite subjects (www.webring.org). When Byron’s father died he became the sixth Lord Byron, at the young age of ten.
His father’s estates included land in Newstead, Nottinghamshire and Rochdale in Lancashire, with other properties in Norfolk. Newstead, the inherited home in England, was an absolute wreck. The Wicked Lord (George’s grandfather) hated his sons, so he set about ruining Newstead so his sons would have no proper estate. He used to let swarms of crickets run rampant through the house (www.byronjournal). Because of this Byron’s mother moved them nearby to Nottingham. They were very poor. The Byron estate was mostly tied up in lawsuits, but Mrs. Byron finally got her son a decent income. He was sent to Dr. Glennie’s Academy at Dulwich and then to Harrow, where he was tormented by the other boys (www.geocities.com/athens/delphi). He went back to Newstead for the Christmas holidays, which had been rented to a Lord Ruthyn who made the place habitable. There he fell in love with a neighbor named Mary Ann Chaworth. So infatuated with her he refused to return to Harrow after the holidays ended, eventually Lord Ruthyn got him to go back. After the woman he was deeply in love with, Mary Ann, married another man in 1805, Byron became a very wild sort of person. He enrolled in Cambridge, but did no work. He wrote lots of verses, and spent lots of money. He inevitably spent beyond his income of 500 a year and had to get a relative’s signature to obtain a loan. At this time he was only seventeen years old. He turned to his half-sister, Augusta Byron Leigh, child of Mad Jack’s first marriage. Augusta’s husband was a big spender too, so she understood and signed (www.geocities.com/athens/delphi).
While staying at his mother’s (something Byron did only when absolutely unavoidable), a neighbor of Mrs. Byron’s encouraged Byron to publish his poems. In 1806, the book Fugitive Pieces appeared. Byron sent copies to two of his friends, one of whom wrote back to say that he thought the poem To Mary was far too shocking to be read by the general public. Byron took this opinion very seriously, and ordered every copy of the volume to be burnt. The book was republished, excluding To Mary, in March 1806 as Hours of Idleness. It sold well, but reviews were mixed, and Byron responded to his critics with the very successful satire English Bards and Scotch Reviewers.
In June 1809, Byron and his friends John Cam Hobhouse and William Fletcher set off on a European tour, which ended up as a tour of the Middle East. They eventually found themselves in Albania, where Byron was treated well by Ali, the Pacha of Yanina. Byron admired him for having the power and courage to stand outside the normal society. It was around this time that Byron began work on Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, which he would work on off and on for the next eight years.
Eventually, he returned to England, but England turned out to be a very sad place for him. His mother died of a stroke before he was able to see her again; one of his best friends drowned; and his sister Augusta’s marriage was almost completely ruined. He wrote no poetry for a long time. But, at the insistence of a friend, the first two cantos of Childe Harold were published in February 1812, and Byron became an overnight sensation. Women everywhere became obsessed with him. Lady Caroline Lamb was the determined of these women. Byron got tired of her very soon after their affair started, and soon expressed a desire to marry Caroline’s cousin, Annabella Milbanke. She turned him down so Byron relieved his emotions with a quick affair with Lady Oxford.
In 1813, Augusta came to visit her brother as a way of escaping her financial and personal problems, and at this time she had had an affair with Byron. In 1814 Byron was back proposing again to Annabella, and this time she agreed. They were married on January 2, 1815. On December 10, 1815, Annabella gave birth to a girl, named Augusta Ada. In February 1816, Annabella asked for a formal separation, which Byron, surprisingly, agreed to. The British society formed negative opinions about Byron, and he was disrespected everywhere he went (www.webring.org/cgi-bin). So in April, Hobhouse, Fletcher, and Byron took a trip to Europe again, this time with Dr. John Polidori. In May, the group met Percy Shelley and Mary Godwin, who were both living in sin. They were travelling with Mary’s stepsister, Clare Clairmont. They travelled everywhere together, finally ending up in Italy, and Byron decided that this was the place for him. While there, he finished up Childe Harold, wrote Manfred, and started on Don Juan, though his health was poor.
Byron took Teresa, Countess Guicioli, as his mistress in 1819, and it was quite a scandal. Not only because the lady was married, but also because Byron often lived under the same roof with both Teresa and her rich old husband. Eventually Teresa’s husband, who allowed her affairs, applied for seperation. Shelley visited the couple in 1821 and wrote a letter to her friend about Byron’s unusual lifestyle:
Lord Byron gets up at two. I get up, quite contrary to my usual custom . . . at 12. After breakfast we sit talking till six. From six to eight we gallop through the pine forest which divide Ravenna from the sea; we then come home and dine, and sit up gossiping till six in the morning. I don’t suppose this will kill me in a week or fortnight, but I shall not try it longer. 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, which every now and then resounds with their unarbitrated quarrels, as if they were the masters of it. . . . [P.S.] I find that my enumeration of the animals in this Circean Palace was defective . . . . I have just met on the grand staircase five peacocks, two guinea hens, and an Egyptian crane. I wonder who all these animals were before they were changed into these shapes.
He got involved with local politics in 1820, joining the Italian freedom fighters working for democracy, though nothing really effective ever came from his plans. In 1822, Shelley drowned when his boat capsized. The following year, Byron became involved in the Greek fight for independence from Turkey. Ironically, Ali Pasha, who Byron extremely admired, had been one of the Turkish oppressors of Greece. Byron sailed for Greece at great risk and expense, even though he believed he was sailing towards his own death. He joined forces with a Greek prince named Mavrocordato and financed a navy for the freedom fighters. Byron found himself unwillingly in command of everything.
In 1823, Byron’s daughter, Allegra died of a fever in the convent school at the age of five. Facing the death of loved ones, and almost foreshadowing his own death, Byron wrote the following lines in On This Day I Complete My Thirty-Sixth Year (Jan 22, 1824):
“‘Tis time this heart should be unmoved,
Since others hath it ceased to move:
Yet, though I cannot be beloved,
Still let me love!
My days are in the yellow leaf;
The flowers and fruits of love are gone;
The worm, the canker, and the grief
Are mine alone!”
(More, Paul E., 376)
As prophesied by a fortune-teller consulted by his mother when he was a child. The fortune-teller had said that his 37th year would be very dangerous, and he had just started his 37th year (www.byronjournal). In February of 1824, he had an epileptic seizure probably brought on by drinking and stress (www.geocities.com/athens/acropolis). Two months later, he was caught in a sudden rainstorm while horseback riding, and he caught a chill from it which he never recovered. He died on April 19, 1824, having suffered extreme delirium for many days. He was never able to read the letters of praise, which had arrived from England a few days before, so he never knew that his native country had forgiven him for his indiscretions.