The most notorious Romantic poet and satirist, Byron was famous in
his lifetime for his love affairs with women. He created his own cult of
personality, the concept of the 'Byronic hero' - a defiant, melancholy young
man, brooding on some mysterious, unforgivable in his past. "There's not a joy
the world can give that it takes away / When the glow of early thought declines
in feeling's dull decay, / 'Tis not on youth's smooth cheek the blush alone,
which fades so fast, / But the tender bloom of heart is gone, ere youth itself be
past." (“Lord Byron”) Byron's influence on European poetry, music, novel,
opera, and painting was immense, although the poet was widely condemned on
moral grounds by his contemporaries.
• George Gordon, Lord Byron, was the son of Captain John Byron, and
Catherine Gordon of Gight, a self-indulgent, somewhat hysterical woman, who
was his second wife. He was born with a club-foot and became extreme
sensitivity about his lameness. His life did not become easier when he received
painful treatments for his foot by a quack practitioner in 1799. Eventually he
got a corrective boot. (“Lord Bryon”).
• In his works short and stout Byron glorified proud heroes, who overcome
hardships. The poet himself was only 5 feet 8 1/2 inches tall and his widely
varying weight ranged from 137 to 202 pounds - he once said that everything
he swallowed was instantly converted to tallow and deposited on his ribs. One
of his friends noted that at the age of about 30 he looked 40 and "the knuckles
of his hands were lost in fat."
• At the age of fifteen he fell in love with Mary Chaworth, his distant cousin, whom
he wrote the poem 'To Emma'.
• In 1807 appeared Byron's first collection of poetry, HOURS OF IDLENESS.
It received bad reviews. The poet answered his critics with satire ENGLISH
BARDS AND SCOTCH REVIEWS in 1808. Next year he took his seat in the
House of Lords, and set out on his grand tour, visiting Spain, Albania, Greece,
and the Aegean.
• Success came in 1812 when Byron published the first two cantos of CHILDE
HAROLD'S PILGRIMAGE (1812-1818). "I awoke one morning and found
myself famous," he later said. He became an adored character of London
society, he spoke in the House of Lords effectively on liberal themes, and had a
hectic love-affair with Lady Caroline Lamb. ''Mad - bad - and dangerous to
know,'' she wrote in her journal on the evening she first saw him.
• During the summer of 1813 Byron apparently entered into a more than
brotherly relationship with his half-sister Augusta Leigh, who was a mother
of three daughters. In 1814 Augusta gave birth to Elizabeth Medora, who was
generally supposed to be Byron's.
• In the same year he wrote 'Lara,' a poem about a mystical hero, aloof and
alien, whose identity is gradually revealed and who dies after a feud in the
arms of his page. THE CORSAIR (1814), sold 10,000 copies on the first day
of publication.
•. Byron married Anne Isabella Milbanke in 1815, and their daughter Ada
was born in the same year. The marriage was unhappy, and they obtained
legal separation next year. When the rumors started to rise of his incest and
debts were accumulating, Byron left England in 1816, never to return. ''The
only virtue they honor in England is hypocrisy,'' he once wrote a friend.
• Byron settled in Geneva with Mary Godwin, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Mary
Shelley, and Claire Clairmont, who became his mistress. There he wrote the
two cantos of Childe Harold and THE PRISONER OF CHILLON. At the end
of the summer Byron continued his travels, spending two years in Italy.
• During the years in Italy, Byron wrote LAMENT OF TASSO, inspired by
his visit in Tasso's cell in Rome, MAZEPPA, THE PROPHECY OF
DANTE, and started DON JUAN, his satiric masterpiece.
• After a long creative period, Byron had come to feel that action was more
important than poetry. With good wishes from Goethe, Byron armed a brig, the
Hercules, and sailed to Greece to aid the Greek's, who had risen against their
Ottoman overlords. He worked ceaselessly and joined Alexander Mavrocordato
on the north shore of the Gulf of Patras..
• However, before Byron saw any serious military action, he contracted the fever
from which he died in Missolonghi on 19 April 1824. Before his death he had
suffered a seizure, and his condition was worsened by a leeching procedure.
Memorial services were held all over the land. The Greeks wished to bury him in
Athens, but only his heart stayed in the country. Part of his skull and his internal
organs had been removed for souvenirs. Byron's body was returned to England but
refused by the deans of both Westminister and St Paul's. Finally Byron's coffin
was placed in the family vault at Hucknall Torkard, near Newstead Abbey in
Nottinghamshire
Characteristics of the Byronic Hero
A Byronic hero exhibits several characteristic traits, and
in many ways he can be considered a rebel.
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
is a rebel (against convention, society, etc.)
has a distaste for society and social institutions
is isolated from society (a wanderer, an exile)
is not impressed by rank and privilege (though he may possess it)
is larger-than-life in his ability--and his pride
has a hidden curse or crime
suffers from titanic passions
tends to be self-destructive
One of the key connections to understanding the Byronic Hero is that he is, in
some ways, like the Romantic conception of Satan in Paradise Lost--the rebel
who fights against a tyrannical establishment but is destroyed by his own
overwhelming pride. This figure is an unconventional hero--dangerous and
destructive, but admirable because he is larger than life.
• Percy Bysshe Shelley (August 4, 1792 – July 8,
1822) was one of the major English Romantic poets
and is widely considered to be among the finest lyrical
poets of the English language.
• Lyrical poems are a form of poetry that does not attempt to tell a story but is
of a more personal nature instead.
• He is perhaps most famous for such anthology pieces as Ozymandias, Ode to
the West Wind, To a Skylark, and The Masque of Anarchy.
• Shelley's unconventional life and uncompromising idealism, combined with
his strong skeptical voice, made him a notorious and much denigrated figure
during his life.
• He became the idol of the next two or three
generations of poets (including the major Victorian and
Pre-Raphaelite poets Robert Browning, Alfred
Tennyson, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Algernon Charles
Swinburne, as well as William Butler Yeats
• He is famous for his association with contemporaries
John Keats and Lord Byron; an untimely death at a
young age was common to all three. He was married to
the famous novelist Mary Shelley, author of
Mary Shelley
Frankenstein, and wrote the introduction to the 1818
edition of the novel.
• In 1814 Shelley fell in love and eloped with Mary, the sixteen-year-old daughter
of William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft. For the next few years the couple
travelled in Europe. Shelley continued to be involved in politics and in 1817 wrote
the pamphlet A Proposal for Putting Reform to the Vote Throughout the United
Kingdom. In the pamphlet Shelley suggested a national referendum on electoral
reform and improvements in working class education.
• In 1822 Shelley, moved to Italy with Leigh Hunt (friends with other
young writers who favored political reform) and Lord Byron where they
published the journal The Liberal. By publishing it in Italy the three men
remained free from prosecution by the British authorities. The first
edition of The Liberal sold 4,000 copies. Soon after its publication, Percy
Bysshe Shelley was lost at sea on 8th July, 1822 while sailing to meet
Leigh Hunt.
•. John Keats was born in Finsbury Pavement near
London on October 31st, 1795.
• The first son of a stable-keeper, he had a sister and three
brothers, one of whom died in infancy. When John was eight
years old, his father was killed in an accident. In the same year
his mother married again, but little later separated from her
husband and took her family to live with her mother.
•. John attended a good school where he became well acquainted with ancient
and contemporary literature.
• In 1810 his mother died of consumption, leaving the children to their
grandmother. The old lady put them under the care of two guardians, to whom she
made over a respectable amount of money for the benifit of the orphans. Under the
authority of the guardians, he was taken from school to an be apprentice to a
surgeon. In 1814, before completion of his apprenticeship, John left his master after
a quarrel, becoming a hospital student in London.
• Under the guidance of his friend Cowden Clarke he devoted himself
increasingly to literature. In 1814 Keats finally sacrificed his medical ambitions
to a literary life.
• He soon got acquainted with celebrated artists of his time, like Leigh Hunt,
Percy B. Shelley and Benjamin Robert Haydon.
• In May 1816, Hunt helped him publish his first poem in a magazine. A year
later Keats published about thirty poems and sonnets printed in the volume
"Poems".
• After receiving scarce, negative feedback, Keats travelled to the Isle of Wight
on his own in spring of 1817. In the late summer he went to Oxford together
with a newly-made friend, Benjamin Bailey.
• In the following winter, George Keats married and emigrated to America,
leaving the consumptuous brother Tom to the John's care.
• Apart from helping Tom against consumption, Keats worked on his poem
"Endymion". Just before its publication, he went on a hiking tour to Scotland and
Ireland with his friend Charles Brown.
• First signs of his own fatal disease forced him to return prematurely, where he
found his brother seriously ill and his poem harshly critisized. In December 1818
Tom Keats died.
• John moved to Hampstead Heath, were he lived in the house of Charles
Brown. While in Scotland with Keats, Brown had lent his house to a Mrs
Brawne and her sixteen-year-old daughter Fanny. Since the ladies where still
living in London, Keats soon made their acquaintance and fell in love with
the beautiful, fashionable girl.
• Absorbed in love and poetry, he exhausted himself mentally, and in autumn
of 1819, he tried to gain some distance to literature through an ordinary
occupation.
• An unmistakable sign of consumption in February 1820 however broke all
his plans for the future, marking the beginning of what he called his
"posthumous life".
• In the late summer of 1820, Keats was ordered by his doctors to avoid the
English winter and move to Italy. His friend Joseph Severn accompanied him
south - first to Naples, and then to Rome.
• His health improved momentarily, only to collapse finally. Keats died in
Rome on the 23rd of February, 1821.
• The inscription at the bottom is in Severn's hand, and reads (in partial
shorthand):
“28 Janry 3 o'clock mng. Drawn to keep me awake - a deadly
sweat was on him all this night.”
• Keats passed away on Friday, 23 February 1821, around 11:00 pm.
• He was buried on the Protestant Cemetary, near the grave of Caius Cestius.
On his desire, the following lines were engraved on his tombstone: "Here lies
one whose name was writ in water."
This is the last
known portrait
of the poet.
Works Cited
Allen, Dr. Rosemary. “The Bryonic Hero.” English 213, Spring 2003. Georgetown
University. 23 Apr. 2007. < http://spider.georgetowncollege.edu/english/allen/byron2.htm>.
----. “Characteristics of Romanticism.” English 213, Spring 2003. Georgetown
University. 23 Apr. 2007. < http://spider.georgetowncollege.edu/english/allen/romantic.htm>.
English History.Net. “The Final Months of John Keats.” 12 Jan. 2007. 21 Apr. 2007.
< http://englishhistory.net/keats/death.html>.
“George Byron, 6th Baron Byron” Wikipedia, the free encylopedia. 21 Apr. 2007. Wikipedia
Foundation,Inc. 21 Apr. 2007. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lord_Byron>.
John Keats.com. “Biography.” 21 Apr. 2007 < http://www.john-keats.com/>.
“Lord Byron (1788-1824) - Byron (of Rochdale), George (Gordon), 6th Baron.” 2007.
Kuusankosken kaupunginkirjasto. 21 Apr. 2007. <http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/byron.htm>.
“Percy Bysshe Shelley.” Apr. 2007. Spartacus Educational. 21 Apr. 2007.
<http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/PRshelley.htm>.
“Percy Bysshe Shelley” Wikipedia, the free encylopedia. 21 Apr. 2007. Wikipedia
“Percy Bysshe Shelley.” Apr. 2007. Spartacus Educational. 21 Apr. 2007.
<http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/PRshelley.htm>.
That’s French for
“THE END”
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