George Gordon Noel, 6th Baron Byron, 1788 - 1824

portrait of Lord Byron
Portrait by Thomas Phillips (1824)

Born: 22 January 1788, Dover, Kent, England, UK
Died: 19 April 1824, Messolonghi, Aetolia-Acarnania, Greece

"Mad, bad, and dangerous to know" was an apt description. Passionate, arrogant, constantly in debt, and promiscuous with both sexes, he shocked and titillated England with his lifestyle even as he stunned them with his literary talent. He was renowned for his good looks, and used them to advantage. He was sexually aware early, and some of his first poems were so risqué that his first book, Fugitive Pieces, was recalled and burned. His next book received such savage criticism that it inspired his first satire, English Bards and Scotch Reviewers, which triggered a duel with the reviewer. Byron was not particularly active in the House of Lords, but he was a proponent of social reform and supported the Luddites, who were being put out of work by increasing automation at factories. He wrote several works defending them.

In 1809, Byron went on the Grand Tour, but staying to the south because of the Napoleonic Wars. He had many affairs, first among them his fling with Lady Caroline Lamb, who became obsessed with him and bore his child. The most outrageous scandal was the rumor that he and his half-sister Augusta had an affair. He married Anna Isabelle Milbanke in 1815, an unhappy match, they parted ways in 1816.

After the failure of his marriage, Byron left England. He settled for a time near Lake Geneva, Switzerland, where he lived with his personal physician, John Polidori, and befriended Percy Shelley and his wife-to-be, Mary Godwin. During one rainy summer, they started telling each other stories. Mary's story would become Frankenstein, while Polidori created The Vampyre, the first romantic vampire novel, erroneously attributed to Byron.

Byron had moved to Genoa by 1823 and was growing bored when he was approached to support Greece's rebellion against the Ottomans. Byron was eager for adventure and paid to refit the Greek fleet and prepared to sail into battle, but took ill and died before the fleet set sail.

Biography from Wikipedia and English History Network

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