Authors: George Gordon, Lord Byron

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

English poet

Author Works

Poetry:

Fugitive Pieces, 1806

Poems on Various Occasions, 1807

Hours of Idleness, 1807

Poems Original and Translated, 1808

English Bards and Scotch Reviewers, 1809

Hints from Horace, 1811

Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, Cantos I-IV, 1812-1818, 1819 (the 4 cantos published together)

The Curse of Minerva, 1812

Waltz: An Apostrophic Hymn, 1813

The Giaour, 1813

The Bride of Abydos, 1813

The Corsair, 1814

Ode to Napoleon Buonaparte, 1814

Lara, 1814

Hebrew Melodies Ancient and Modern, 1815

The Siege of Corinth, 1816

Parisina, 1816

Poems, 1816

The Prisoner of Chillon, and Other Poems, 1816

Monody on the Death of the Right Honourable R. B. Sheridan, 1816

The Lament of Tasso, 1817

Manfred, 1817 (verse drama)

Beppo: A Venetian Story, 1818

Mazeppa, 1819

Don Juan, Cantos I-XVI, 1819-1824, 1826 (the 16 cantos published together)

Marino Faliero, Doge of Venice, 1821 (verse drama)

The Prophecy of Dante, 1821

Sardanapalus, 1821 (verse drama)

The Two Foscari, 1821 (verse drama)

Cain: A Mystery, 1821 (verse drama)

The Vision of Judgment, 1822

Heaven and Earth, 1822 (verse drama)

The Age of Bronze, 1823

The Island, 1823

Werner: Or, The Inheritance, 1823 (verse drama)

The Deformed Transformed, 1824 (unfinished verse drama)

The Complete Poetical Works of Byron, 1980-1986 (5 volumes)

Nonfiction:

Letter to [John Murray] on the Rev. W. L. Bowles’ Strictures on the Life and Writings of Pope, 1821

“A Letter to the Editor of ‘My Grandmother’s Review,’” 1822

The Blues: A Literary Eclogue, 1823

The Parliamentary Speeches of Lord Byron, 1824

Byron’s Letters and Journals, 1973-1982 (12 volumes; Leslie A. Marchand, editor)

Biography

A descendent of the instigator of the infamous Gordon Riots of 1780, George Gordon, Lord Byron certainly lived up to his heritage. A master poet, debauchee, and self-promoter, Byron became, after Napoleon, the most famous man of his day. His death at the age of thirty-six ensured that the adjective “Byronic” would become part of the English language.{$I[AN]9810000629}{$I[A]Byron, George Gordon, Lord}{$S[A]Gordon, George;Byron, George Gordon, Lord}{$I[geo]ENGLAND;Byron, George Gordon, Lord}{$I[tim]1788;Byron, George Gordon, Lord}

George Gordon, Lord Byron

(Library of Congress)

Born in London on January 22, 1788, Byron was the son of a spendthrift father and a mother whose alternating moods of affection and wild anger left him bewildered. His life was tempestuous from the beginning. Disabled (he had a clubfoot), handsome, and with a personality magnetic to both men and women, he embarked in 1809 on a trip to the Middle East. His adventures included a shipwreck, a bout with fever, the swimming of the Hellespont, and the rescue of a girl who was about to be drowned.

When he returned to England, his first speech in the House of Lords was in defense of the working man–a radical start for a young lord. Later, when the scandal of his personal life broke over his head, he was advised not to appear in public for fear the very sight of him might cause a riot. When he left England for his exile in Europe, friends had to protect his life with firearms.

At Ravenna, Italy, Byron again became an adventurer. Probably joining the revolutionary Carbonari, he bought guns and ammunition for a revolt against Austrian tyranny. His death at Missolonghi, in Greece, on April 19, 1824, was the result of a fever caught while preparing to fight against the Turks for Greek independence.

In his time, Byron was also known as a lover. “Mad, bad, and dangerous to know” was how Lady Caroline Lamb summed up her first impression of him. Byron’s love affairs started early, while he was a student at Harrow, and they continued through his study at Cambridge University and the period when he was a darling of London society. In 1814 he married Anne Isabella Milbanke. His friends thought the match might calm the wild lord, but it failed to do so. After the birth of his daughter Ada, he and Lady Byron separated. No public explanation of their separation was ever advanced by Byron or his wife, but rumors of an incestuous relationship between Byron and his half-sister, Augusta Leigh, spread throughout England. The society that had idolized him now turned him, on the basis of rumor alone, into a monstrous villain. He virtually went into exile when he left England in 1816.

In Venice, in 1818, Byron the lover became Byron the debauchee. He met and then followed the Countess Teresa Guiccioli from Venice to Ravenna, from Pisa to Genoa. The arrangements for such a love life were complicated, although they were in part regularized by the countess’s separation (by papal decree) from her husband. It seems appropriately Byronic that his one real love could never be completely his own.

The mass of conflicts and desires that was Lord Byron found expression in poetry that was intense, bright, and honest. Byron, more than the other Romantics of his time, believed that he was a supreme outsider, and he was surprised by his fame and fortune. Certainly the early Byron was not yet a great poet but a versifier who shocked and insulted. Hours of Idleness was published while Byron was at Cambridge, and the Edinburgh Review criticized it scathingly. Byron retaliated with English Bards and Scotch Reviewers, equally scathing. From his trip to the Middle East he brought back the first two cantos of Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage. They made him famous and extremely popular. Volume followed volume until he reached, in 1814, a peak of popularity with The Corsair, which sold ten thousand copies on the day of publication. To the second edition Byron added “Lines to a Lady Weeping,” which disparaged the prince regent. This insult provoked a revolt against him. Next came the scandal in his personal life, and Byron went into the exile that turned him from a weak sensationalist into a great lyric and narrative poet.

On the site of the Battle of Waterloo he composed the famous stanza for a new canto of Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage. In Venice he wrote more cantos, Manfred, and the beginning of Don Juan, the greatest of his narrative poems. Starting out like a slapstick bedroom farce, Don Juan slowly emerges as a beautiful romance between its protagonist and Haidee, a native girl. Along with his newfound poetic strength Byron kept his talent for invective: The dedication of Don Juan insults Robert Southey (then poet laureate), Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and William Wordsworth, among others.

Byron’s work has been charged with being too topical, too stale for later generations. Yet The Vision of Judgment, one of his last works, reveals the workings of a first-rate satirist and an unsurpassed comic mind. The poetry of Byron is as many-sided as the man was. It ranges from gentle love lyrics like “She Walks in Beauty” and “When We Two Parted” to the pure narrative of “The Prisoner of Chillon” and the biting satire of The Vision of Judgment. Byron was one of Friedrich Nietzsche’s favorite poets simply because Nietzsche saw something bold, honest, and forthright in Byron’s ability to reconfigure his subjectivity and revaluate his world.

England refused this stormy individual a burial in Westminster Abbey; he lies in his family vault at Hucknall-Torkard Church, near Newstead. Byron’s independence of spirit and truly playful and original mind led him so far outside “acceptable” culture that even today he is a figure who burns too brightly and too honestly to be easily accepted.

BibliographyBrewer, William D., ed. Contemporary Studies on Lord Byron. Lewiston, N.Y.: Edwin Mellen Press, 2001. A collection of essays on the works of Byron. Bibliography and index.Brisman, Leslie. “Troubled Stream from a Pure Source.” In George Gordon, Lord Byron, edited by Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea House, 1986. A readable and pithy examination of the Romantic origins of Byron’s major drama that places Cain within the context of the Romantic task of returning fallen man to his original state of innocence. The volume contains a brief chronology of Byron’s life as well as a useful select bibliography.Byron, George Gordon, Lord. Byron. Edited by Jerome J. McGann. New York: Oxford University Press, 1986. The most comprehensive one-volume edition of Byron’s poetry and prose. Includes complete text of Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage and Don Juan, as well as other poems and plays, and also includes selections from Byron’s incomparable letters.Byron, George Gordon, Lord. Byron’s Letters and Journals. Edited by Leslie A. Marchand, 12 vols. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1973-1982. Byron’s letters were always witty, irreverent, and highly entertaining, written quickly and without inhibitions. They mirror his many-sided personality and the charm of his conversation.Chew, Samuel C., Jr. The Dramas of Lord Byron: A Critical Study. 1915. Reprint. New York: Russell and Russell, 1964. The first sustained analysis of Byron’s plays, Chew’s book remains the best single introductory examination of Byron’s dramatic works and his career as a dramatist. Although methodologically dated, Chew offers a sensible investigation of Byron’s development of dramatic structure in the light of the larger context of Romantic drama, in addition to some solid insights into the connections between Byron’s poems and plays. The volume includes appendices that examine Byron’s use of the dramatic unities and compares Byron’s Manfred with Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Faust (pb. 1808, 1833).Crane, David. The Kindness of Sisters. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2003. A study of Byron’s reputation after death, exploring bitter and conflicting accounts by the wife he divorced and the sister he seduced.Eisler, Benita. Byron: Child of Passion, Fool of Fame. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1999. A narrative biography that does justice to the love affairs that made Byron notorious while giving ample coverage of the reasons Byron is an influential and important poet. Includes bibliographic references.Franklin, Caroline. Byron: A Literary Life. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2000. A study of Byron’s career, with some attention to the poet’s neglected playwriting.Garrett, Martin. George Gordon, Lord Byron. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001. This brief, well-illustrated biography, designed for students in grades nine and above, is a good introduction to Byron. Replete with choice quotations and primary source references. Includes an index.Graham, Peter W. Don Juan and Regency England. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1990. Six self-contained but interrelated essays that explore Byron’s comic masterpiece in the context of various aspects of the culture of Regency England. Graham argues that in Don Juan, Byron continually advocated a cosmopolitan point of view, satirizing traditional English insularity. Readers should have some familiarity with Don Juan before tackling this volume, but Graham writes jargon-free prose, and each essay is highly illuminating.MacCarthy, Fiona. Byron: Life and Legend. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2003. A biography that re-examines the life of the poet in the light of MacCarthy’s assertion that Byron was bisexual, a victim of early abuse by his nurse.Marchand, Leslie A. Byron: A Portrait. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970. The best biography for the general reader. It is based on Marchand’s definitive three-volume biography published in 1957 but includes research done in the 1960’s. Marchand’s portrait of Byron is balanced and free of bias. Includes fifty-six illustrations, genealogical tables, and two maps showing Byron’s travels from 1809 to 1811, and Byron’s Greece.Martin, Philip. Byron: A Poet Before His Public. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1982. This biographical-historical analysis of Byron’s plays, with chapters on Manfred, Cain, and Sardanapalus, places Byron’s work within the context of his contemporaries of the second generation of Romantic poets. The analyses of the plays include an excellent discussion of the placement of Byron’s plays within the dramaturgical context of the time, particularly the mannered expressionism of Edmund Kean, Sarah Siddons, and Charles Kemble. Contains a number of illustrations and a complete bibliography.Peters, Catherine. Byron. Stroud, Gloucestershire, England: Sutton, 2000. A concise biography of Byron that covers his life and works. Bibliography.Wilson, Frances. Byromania: Portraits of the Artist in Nineteenth-and Twentieth-Century Culture. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1999. These eleven essays shed light on the scandalous nature of Byron’s fame, including his carefully wrought self-presentation, as well as the extraordinary popularity of his work and persona. The poet is viewed through multiple, if sometimes contradictory perspectives, the essays varying in tone from academic to humorous.
Categories: Authors