George Gordon Noel Byron 6th Baron Byron

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Byron, George Gordon, 6th Baron Byron (1788–1824). Succeeded to the barony and Newstead abbey in 1798. After Harrow and Cambridge he embarked on the grand tour and a life of dissipation which provided material for his verses, in 1812 waking to find himself famous with the publication of the first two cantos of Childe Harold. In politics associated with the Holland House set, his maiden speech was on the Nottinghamshire frame-breakers' bill, but he left England in 1816 after separating from his wife, heiress Annabella Milbanke. On the continent he befriended Shelley, was present at the inception of Frankenstein, and published a stream of verse romances refining the features of the ‘Byronic hero’, a gloomy self-projection of their author, which shocked and fascinated Regency England. Affecting an aristocratic disdain for writers who were ‘all inky thumbs’, he was a more serious artist than he admitted. Saluted in Italy as ‘il poeta della rivoluzione’, in 1824 his love of liberty took him to fight in the Greek War for Independence. He died of fever at Missolonghi, his masterpiece Don Juan unfinished. Though the obituaries regretted such ‘elaborate lampoons’, the 20th cent. generally preferred his more satirical vein.

John Saunders

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Byron, George Gordon Noel Byron, 6th Baron (1788–1824) English poet. After a childhood scarred by the handicap of a clubfoot and maltreatment by his mother, he went to Trinity College, Cambridge (1805). Although Byron achieved notice with the satire English Bards and Scotch Reviewers (1809), it was the first two cantos of Childe Harold's Pilgrimage (1812) that brought him fame. His romantic image and reputation for dissolute living and numerous sexual affairs vied with his poetic reputation. By 1816 he was a social outcast and went into permanent exile. Abroad, Byron wrote Cantos III and IV of Childe Harold (1816, 1818) and Don Juan (1819–24), an epic satire often regarded as his masterpiece. In 1823 he travelled to Greece to fight for Greek independence against the Turks and died of fever at Missolonghi.

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