Byron, George Noel Gordon

BORN 22 Jan 1788, London: 22 Holles Street - DIED 19 Apr 1824, Missolonghi
GRAVE LOCATION Hucknall Torkard, Nottinghamshire: Church of St. Mary Magdalene, Ogle Street

Born into a noble but poor family, George Noel Gordon Byron's worldly prospects suddenly brightened when his father's nephew William (the heir of the fifth Lord Byron) died in 1794 (he was hit by a cannonball at the Battle of Calvi in Corsica). Now he succeeded as the sixth Lord Byron after the death of the fifth Lord in 1798.

The young Byron had a good time at Harrow (where he felt himself greatly attracted to a boy called Edlestone) and a lousy time at Trinity College, Cambridge. But allthough he didn't learn a lot there, he made many friends, among them Scrope Davies, Francis Hodgson and John Cam Hobhouse.

In 1807 his first poetry was published in "Hours of Idleness", but the critics were severe. He answered them in 1808 with his famous poem "Scottish Bards and English Reviewers". In the same year he entered the House of Lords, but soon he considered himself not suited for politics.

Together with his friend Hobhouse and his valet Fletcher he travelled through Greece and Turkey. On 3 May 1810 he swam the Hellespont from Sestos to Abydos as a tribute to Leander. In Albania they met Ali Pasha and especially after Hobhouse had returned to England Byron indulged himself in homosexual pleasures, in those days not uncommon in Greece, but a very dangerous habit in England (he would live a heterosexual life afterwards, until in his final days at Missolonghi in 1824 he once more became infatuated with a young boy).

Byron became famous as a result of his succesfull poems as well as his private life. In 1809 he had started the first canto of Childe Harold's Pilgrimage. The first two canto's were published in 1812 and he immediately found himself famous. In the same year he had an affair with Lady Oxford and he met Annabella Milbanke. Byron proposed to her but was turned down. In 1814 his poem "The Corsair" sold 10,000 copies on the first day of publication.

It was his affair with lady Caroline Lamb that set London on fire. She was furious when he dumped her and she went out of her way to damage his reputation. Unfortunately, in 1814 Annabella Milbanke accepted his second proposal. Byron and his 'Princess of parallelograms' were totally incompatible and their marriage turned into a complete disaster.

Soon after the birth of their daughter Augusta Ada she left their house and they never saw each other again. By this time there were persistent rumours that Byron had had an incestuous relationship with his half-sister Augusta and the evidence is indirect, these rumours were almost certainly true and Annabella would haunt Augusta because of it in later years. It is even possible that Byron was the father of Augusta's daughter Elizabeth Medora.

Scorned by society and worried by financial debts, Byron left England in 1816 and never came back. In Geneva (and later in Italy) he befriended his fellow poet Shelley, who had eloped with the young Mary Godwin. When still in London he had met Mary's stepsister Claire, who had seduced him and carried his child. Their daughter Allegra only lived until her fourth year, but Byron was bored with Claire even before Allegra was born.

Byron continued to live in Italy, was often depressed, continued to write his poetry and had many affairs with local women. His liaison with the young countess Guiccioli lasted for years. In 1824 - now a rich man - he set sail to Greece to help the Greeks fight the Turks. He turned out to be a cool negotiator who was well aware of the rivalries between the many parties involved in the struggle against the Turks and carefully considered his moves.

Before he saw any military action he had a severe seizure on 15 February and fell seriously ill afterwards. He had trouble speaking now and was troubled by pains in the chest (The cause for these problems has never become clear). When he felt better he took a ride on 9 April 1824, but it started raining and he came back soaking wet. His condition became very serious and his doctors made things worse. Byron refused bleeding, but after they threatened him with loss of sanity if he kept refusing, he finally succumbed. He was bled several times and afterwards his condition detoriated quickly and he died on 19 April 1824, exactly two years after his daughter Allegra.

His tragic death instantly turned him into a hero in England and attracted the major attention to the Greek cause that had failed before (In 1827 Greece was freed from the Turks with the help of England).

Byron's greatest works of poetry are "Childe Harold" (1812-1818) and the satirical masterpiece "Don Juan" (1819-1824). He also wrote several plays: "Manfred" (1817); "Sardanapoulus (1821)"; "Cain" (1821); "The Two Foscari" (1821); "Heaven and Earth" (1821, unfinished). Other works: "The Bride of Abydos" (1813); "The Prisoner of Chillon" (1816); "Lament of Tasso" (inspired by a visit to Tasso's cell in Rome); "The Prophecy of Dante" (1821); "The Deformed Transformed" (1824).

• Daughter: Byron, Allegra
• Daughter: Byron, Augusta Ada, Lady Lovelace
• Wife: Milbanke, Anna Isabella

Related persons
• visited Ali Pasha
• visited Baillie, Joanna
• was sculpted by Baily, Edward Hodges
• visited Beauharnais, Hortense de
• was influenced by Beckford, William
• was written about by Beecher Stowe, Harriet
• has a connection with Blessington, Margaret Gardiner, countess of
• was admired by Blind, Mathilde
• was a friend of Broughton, John Cam Hobhouse, Lord
• was the lover of Byron, Augusta Mary
• has a connection with Caroline von Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel
• has a connection with Chaworth, Mary Ann
• was the lover of Clairmont, Claire
• was visited by Davy, Humphrey
• was admired by Delacroix, Eugène
• had work illustrated by Doré, Gustave
• met Godwin, William
• corresponded with Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von
• was admired by Hoff, Jacobus Henricus van 't
• has a connection with Hunt, Leigh
• was the lover of Lamb, Caroline
• influenced Mácha, Karel Hynek
• met Macri, Teresa
• was written about by Maurois, André
• has a connection with Mavrocordato, Alexander
• was a friend of Murray, John
• was published by Murray, John
• was the lover of Oxford, Jane, Lady
• was admired by Reid, Thomas Mayne
• has a connection with Shelley, Mary
• was a friend of Shelley, Percy Bysshe
• was a friend of Trelawny, Edward John
• had a relationship with Webster Wedderburn, Frances
• was a friend of Webster Wedderburn, James
• knew Williams, Jane
• employed Zambelli, Antonio Tomasso Lega

1816/6/16: Percy Bysshe Shelley, Mary Godwin, Claire Clairmont, Lord Byron and John Polidori tell each other ghost stories
They told each other stories all night and decided that each of them would write a ghost story. Mary Shelley wrote "Frankenstein" and John Polidori wrote "The Vampyre".
1821/11/1: Byron arrives in Pisa with his mistress Teresa Guiccioli
1821/12/16: Byron shoots a small twig in two from 14 feet distance
This was written in his diary by Edward Williams, who was a witness. Mary Shelley and Jane Williams were also there.
1822/8/18: Trelawny burns Shelley's body on the beach
Shelley's body was found on the beach and buried there. It was not allowed to move it because of the risk of diseases. A huge metal furnace was brought to the beach and his remains were cremated. The ashes were taken to the Protestant Cemetery in Rome. Trelawny snatched Shelley's heart from the flames. Leigh Hunt wanted to keep it, but after some pression he gave it to Mary Shelley. Lord Byron couldn't stand it and swam back to his nearby ship before the burning of the corpse started.
1822/10/3: Lord Byron arrives in Genoa
He took up residence in Casa Saluzzo. At the time Mary Shelley also lived in Genoa.
1823/7/24: Byron and Trelawny leave for Greece
1824/2/15: Lord Byron has a violent convulsion
1824/5/15: Mary Shelley receives the news that Lord Byron has died in Greece
In her diary she wrote "Albè-the dear, capricious, fascinating Albè". The Shelleys had always called him Albè (for LB, Lord Byron). She forgot all her objections to him in the shock of the moment.
1824/7/9: Mary Shelley visits Lord Byron's corpse before the funeral takes place
1824/7/12: Lord Byron's funeral procession in London
A huge procession moved through London. A smaller procession moved to Hucknall, Nottinghamshire in four days. In the first coach were Colonel Leigh, Captain Byron, Hanson and Hobhouse. In the second coach were Burdett, Kinnaird, Bruce, Ellice, Stanhope and Travanion. In the thrid coach, among others, Moore, Rogers and Campbell. Mary Shelley saw the procession when it passed her house moving towards Highgate Hill. Caroline Lamb broke down once more when she saw the funeral processon of the former lover.

• Chapman, John S., Byron and the Honourable Augusta Leigh, Yale University Press, New Haven, 1975
• Eisler, Benita, Byron, Child of Passion, Fool of Fame, Knopf, New York, 1999
• Grosskurth, Phyllis, Byron, The Flawed Angel, Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, 1997
• Longford, Elizabeth, The Life of Byron, Little, Brown and Company, Boston, 1976
• Marchand, Leslie A., Byron: a Biography, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1957
• Marchand, Leslie Alexis (ed.), Lord Byron, Selected Letters and Journals, Belknapp Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1982
• Marchand, Leslie A., Byron, A Portrait, Futura Publications Limited, London, 1976
• Minta, Stephen, On a Voiceless Shore, Byron in Greece, Henry Holt and Company, New York, 1998
• Quennell, Peter, Byron, The Years of Fame - Byron in Italy, Collins, London, 1974


Memorial stone for Lord Byron in Westminster Abbey (The booklet normally isn't there).
Picture by Androom (13 Aug 1997)


"George Gordon, 6th Lord Byron" by Richard Westall (National Portrait Gallery, London).


Portrait of Lord Byron by Thomas Phillips.


January 2003: Lord Byron exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, London.
Picture by Androom (25 Jan 2003)


"The Funeral of Shelley" by Louis Éduard Fournier. E.J. Trelawny, Leigh Hunt and Lord Byron watch the burning of Shelley's body. In reality Byron had left the scene before the burning took place.

The Villa Deodati in Cologny near Genève. Lord Byron lived here in 1816.
Picture by Androom (04 Dec 2007)


The entrance to the Villa Deodati in Cologny near Genève. Lord Byron lived here in 1816.
Picture by Androom (04 Dec 2007)


The Hotel Anglettere in Lausanne. Here Lord Byron wrote "The prisoner of Chillon".
Picture by Androom (05 Dec 2007)


Plaque for Lord Byron at the Hotel Anglettere in Lausanne. Here Byron wrote "The prisoner of Chillon".
Picture by Androom (05 Dec 2007)


Statue of Lord Byron at Hucknall Torkard.
Picture by Androom (22 Jun 2009)


Tablet commemorating Lord Byron in front of The Church of St. Mary Magdalene at Hucknall Torkard.
Picture by Androom (22 Jun 2009)


The Church of St. Mary Magdalene at Hucknall Torkard where Lord Byron was buried.
Picture by Androom (22 Jun 2009)


The entrance to the crypt where Lord Byron was buried inside the Church of St. Mary Magdalene at Hucknall Torkard.
Picture by Androom (22 Jun 2009)


The original bed in Byron's sleeping room at Newstead Abbey.
Picture by Androom (21 Jun 2009)


Portrait of Lord Byron at the Keats-Shelley House in Rome.
Picture by Androom (23 Jan 2010)


Monument for Lord Byron at the Villa Borghese Park, Rome.
Picture by Androom (26 Jan 2010)


The Palazzo Lanfranchi where Lord Byron lived in Pisa.
Picture by Androom (06 Feb 2011)


The spot near St. Mary's Church, Harrow, where the young Lord Byron used to hang out.
Picture by Androom (29 May 2014)


Calame, Alexandre

Published: 1 Jan 2006
Last update: 1 Jun 2014