|George Gordon Byron
6th. Lord Byron
1788 - 1824
|George Gordon Byron was born January 22nd 1788 in
London, the son of Captain John Byron (nephew of the 5th Lord) and his wife
Catherine Gordon. His childhood was spent in Aberdeen, the home of his mother
who was widowed in 1791. He was lame from birth. At the age of 10 he became the
6th Lord Byron on the death of his great-uncle.
After Harrow School Byron went to Trinity College, Cambridge in 1805. His first poems, entitled Hours of Idleness, were published in 1807. That same year he went abroad travelling for two years through Portugal, Spain, Albania, Greece and Turkey (where he swam the Hellespont). While abroad he started work on his autobiographical poem Childe Harold. In 1812 he made his maiden speech in the House of Lords - a passionate defence of the Nottinghamshire "Frame Breakers." It was in 1812 also that "he awoke and found himself famous" as the first part of Childe Harold was published. Thereafter he was never out of the limelight, as more poetry - and passionate romances - followed. His disastrous marriage to Annabella Milbanke followed in January 1815, and their daughter, Augusta Ada was born in December of that year.
Within a month the marriage was over and in April 1816, Byron left England, never to return alive, living in Switzerland and northern Italy for the next seven years. His literary output was prodigious and he learned the Armenian language while living in Venice. But it was Greece that had captured his heart and mind and in 1823 he went there again to participate in her heroic struggle for independence from Ottoman Turkey.
Arriving in Messolonghi in December he set about building up the revolutionary forces there but became ill and died on 19th April 1824. He was 36 years old. Among his last recorded words were, "I have given her (Greece) my time, my means, my health - and now I give her my life! - what could I do more?" The Greek nation was overwhelmed by grief. A month later, when the news reached England, the Morning Chronicle newspaper reported, "Thus has perished, in the flower of his age, one of the greatest poets England has produced." The Morning Herald said, "The poetical literature of England has lost one of its brightest ornaments, and the age decidedly its greatest genius." Fifty years later Disraeli described him as "the most distinguished Englishman of the nineteenth century."
His embalmed body was brought back to England, and being refused a burial place at Westminster, he was brought back to Nottinghamshire and laid to rest in the Byron family vault along with many of his ancestors. On view are many Byron memorials including a marble slab given by the King of Greece which is laid directly above Byron as well as a plaque inscribed with quotes from eminent men including Tennyson, and Shelley. Some of these quotes were made during Byron's lifetime, some upon hearing about Byron's death and some long after his death.
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