George Gordon Byron, better known as Lord Byron, was a British poet and a leading figure in the Romanticism. I heart Lord Byron, not only because he is one of the greatest British poets, but also because of his fascinating character and notorious personal affairs.
“Mad, bad, and dangerous to know”, described by Lady Caroline Lamb, one of his many love affairs. I simply can’t resist such an idealized but flawed man – yes, most girls are suckers for a Byronic hero?
What defines a Byronic hero; I hear some of you ask:
Certain traits of a Byronic hero includes – a strong sense of arrogance; high level of intelligence and perception; suffering from a troubled past; sophisticated and educated; self-critical and introspective; mysterious, magnetic and charismatic; struggling with integrity; power of seduction and sexual attraction; social and sexual dominance; bipolar tendencies, or moodiness; a distaste for social institutions and norms; being an exile, an outcast, or an outlaw. They possess “dark” attributes not normally associated with a hero; disrespect of rank and privilege; has seen the world; jaded, world-weary; cynicism; self-destructive behaviour; and above all – a good heart in the end.
Sounds familiar? Yes, most male leads in romantic films or novels possess many traits of a Byronic hero, because we all know, a reformed rake makes the best husband. Who can resist men who are tall, dark and handsome; intelligent, arrogant yet tortured; mysterious and ooze sexual appeal?
Unfortunately, a Byronic hero only works in literature or on the silver screen, because in real life, those who have encountered and fell for Lord Byron were left scarred for life. What makes this historic figure so fascinating? He was wild, audacious, and rebellious; his madness comes from his heart not his head, he was a creature made to tempt and to be tempted, to seduce and to fall, he was uncontrollable and unpredictable, and there was only one certainty – that he was irresistible.
Lord Byron was 5 feet 10 (1.78 m) and was renowned for his personal beauty. He was described as athletic, being a competent boxer and horse-rider and a swimmer, though his weight fluctuated during his later life due to his excessive lifestyle (and his obsession with food). Byron was born with a deformity of his right foot, which caused him many misery and pain in his childhood, and he was abused by his governess, May Gray, who would come to bed with him at night and “play tricks with his person”.
In his adult life, Byron was known for his decadence, aristocratic excess, huge debts, numerous love affairs, self-imposed exile, war involvement and sudden death. Lord Byron’s character can be described as adventurous, extravagant, melancholic, unconventional, eccentric, flamboyant, and extremely moody.
In 1812, Byron embarked on a well-publicised affair with the married Lady Caroline Lamb that shocked the British public. Byron eventually broke off the relationship and moved swiftly on to others (such as that with Lady Oxford), but Lamb never entirely recovered, pursuing him even after he tired of her.
As a child, Byron had seen little of his half-sister Augusta Leigh; in adulthood, he formed a close relationship with her that has been interpreted by some as incestuous. Eventually Byron began to court Lady Caroline’s cousin Anne Isabella Milbanke, who refused his first proposal of marriage but later accepted him.
But within a year the marriage had dissolved and they were separated. Byron felt hounded by the press, who covered every gossip about his personal and financial affairs. In 1816 he left England in a voluntary exile, never to return. In Geneva he met and began a lifelong relationship with the poet Shelley. Each had an admiration of and great respect for the other. Also with the Shelleys was Mary Godwin’s stepsister Claire Clairmont, who was infatuated with Byron. In England she had written him letters, and had met with him.
After the death of Shelly in 1822, and his daughter Allegra’s death in 1823, Byron soon sailed for Greece to take part in the rebellion against the Turks. In February of 1824, he suffered a small stroke, probably brought on by a combination of drinking and stress. On April 9 he was caught in the rain while out riding and became ill. Lord Byron, died of fever on April 19, 1824 at the age of thirty-six. While he was revered as a hero to the Greeks, his reputation was still tarnished in England, even eight years after he had left. Both St. Paul’s and Westminster Abbey refused him funeral services. He was eventually buried in the family tomb at Hucknall Torkard.