George Gordon Byron a Natural Born Poet
Their are many different opinions on the written works of George Gordon Byron which could include one very big question. Was he a natural born poet or simply a product of abuse and mental illness. His writings may have been more a way to ease his pa
and suffering rather than a natural talent. Perhaps his writings were a form of self therapy? Throughout his writings and life history there is much evidence to suggest that his poetry was being greatly influenced by his mental instability. I have l
rned much on this great poet and I too believe that his writings were influenced greatly because of the pain and abuse he suffered in his youth. I will attempt to point out the many possibilities to this.
George Gordon Byron was known as Lord Byron during his lifetime. Byron was born in 1788 and died at the early age of thirty-six in the year 1824. His handsome face, riotous living and many love affairs made Byron the most talked-of man of his day. H
was known as a romantic, fascinating figure to his fellow Englishmen. In our current century his reputation has dwindled to merely being known as a poet. His childhood was colorful to say the least. There is much evidence to suggest mental instabilit
was inherent in his family. Byron was born on Jan.22, 1788 in London. His great-uncle from whom he inherited the title, was known as "wicked Lord Byron"; his father army officer, was called "mad Jack" Byron. This wealth and the nick names of the Byron
en went back to at least as far a Lord Byrons Grandfather, a Vice Admiral, known as "Foul Weather Jack". He was giving this name as he had a reputation of attracting storms.These titles given to his family only adds to the evidence of mental insta
lity. Heres an interesting note: (His family had a long tradition of marrying its cousins, consequently,
there were some oddities among their ancestors. Byrons grandfather "Foul Weather Jack" hated his sons and spent a great deal of time trying to destroy their estate, Newstead. He hoped to leave nothing for his sons, so he encouraged swarms of crickets
o run throughout the house.) (His Life www.edenpr.k12.mn.usephs/ArcadiaWeb)
Born with a clubfoot, he was sensitive about it all his life. When he was just three his father died, leaving the family with nearly nothing to survive on. His parents, Catherine Gordon Byron (of the old and violent line of Scottish Gordons) and John
ron, had been hiding in France from their creditors, but Catherine wanted their child born in England, so John stayed in France, living in his sisters house, and died in 1791, possibly a suicide. However, at ten was left a small inheritance along with
is title. (George"Don Juan"Gordon www.incompetech.com).
His mother then proudly moved from the meager lodging in Aberdeen, Scotland to England. The boy fell in love with the ghostly halls and spacious grounds of Newstead Abbey, which had been presented to the Byrons by Henry VIII, and he and his mother li
d in the run down estate for a while. While in England growing up his was sent to a private school in Nottingham, where his clubfoot was doctored by a quack named Lavender. He suffered abuse while there, from both the painful tortures of Dr. Lavender
d the unnatural affection of the school nurse by the name of May Grey. He was subjected to mistreatment by her through drunkenness, beatings, neglect, and sexual liberties. This abuse was not stopped early enough to protect the boy from the psychologi
l injury in the premature initiation into sex-play. (His Life P.1 www.edenpr.k12.mnus/ehs/ArcadiaWeb/Byron) Byrons mother had a bad temper that he was constantly being exposed to as well. John Hanson, Mrs. Byrons attorney, rescued him from the unna
ral affections of May Grey the school nurse, the tortures of Lavender, and the uneven temper of his mother. John Hanson then took him to London, where a reputable doctor prescribed a special brace. That next autumn of 1799 Hanson
entered him into a school at Dulwich. At seventeen he entered Cambridge University. Determined to overcome his physical handicap, Byron became a good rider, swimmer, boxer, and marksman. He enjoyed literature but cared little for other subjects. (Bri
anica P. 696,1989).
While staying at his mothers (something Byron did only when absolutely unavoidable( a neighbor of Mrs. Byrons encouraged Byron to publish his poems. In 1806, the book "Fugitive Pieces" appeared. Byron sent copies to two of his friends, one of whom w
te back to say that he thought the poem in the book "To Mary" was far too shocking to read by the general public. Byron took this opinion very seriously, and ordered every copy of the volume burnt. The book was republished (minus the offending poem)in
arch 1806 as "Hours of Idleness". It sold well, but reviews were mixed, and Byron answered his detractors with the very successful satire "English Bards and Scotch Reviewers. (George "Don Juan" Gordon www.incompetech.com)
Travels in Europe and the Middle East inspired his first long poem, Childe Harolds Pilgrimage. The first two sections were published in 1812, and he became famous almost overnight. Women sought him out, and young men copied his open collar and flo
In 1815 he married Anne Milbanke. They had one daughter, but soon separated. Society and the public reacted unfavorable to Byrons often scandalous conduct, and in a fit of temper he left England for Italy. While in Italy he wrote additional cantos
r Childe Harold; Manfred, a verse play; and Don Juan, a half-romantic, half-humorous poetic version of the Spanish story. Byron became interested in Greeces struggle to free itself from Turkish rule. He went to Greece and began helping to organ
e the revolt. At Missolonghi he died of a fever on April 18, 1824. His doctors at the time believed he needed to be bled to cure the fever and that probably was the real cause of his death. (Comptons Encyclopedia P.533,1989).
The relationship between his mother and himself influenced Byron in his writings. He once wrote a short softer strain describing himself in his childhood a
"A little curly-headed, good-for-nothing"
"And mischief-making monkey from his birth".
He inherited his uncontrollable temper from both sides of the family. His great-uncle had killed a man in a tavern brawl. Byrons mother, was a tigress in her own right. In her moments of fury she tore her bonnets and her dresses. When Byron was up
mischief she threw vases and fire shovels at his head and called him a "lame brat." This insult always made Byron blind with rage. For he felt extremely sensitive about his clubfoot. One day when his mother hurled this distasteful insult at him he r
sed a knife to his throat, and it was only with difficulty that they saved him from slashing himself. In the course of another quarrel the mother and the son threatened each others life, and each of them went privately to the apothecarys to be sure t
other had not be there to a purchase poison. (Thomas P. 125-126)
George Gordon Byron was haunted by his lame foot his entire days and it was apparent in his works. Once overhearing a girl he was infatuated with refer to him as "that lame boy certainly must have deepened his disappointment at being born with this de
rmity. A fragile self-esteem made Byron extremely sensitive to criticism, of himself or of his poetry, and he tended to make enemies rather quickly. His poetry, along with his lifestyle, was considered controversial in his time and often deemed "perve
ed" or satanic," among other things. The fact that he was often discontent and unhappy, combined with a constant desire for change meant that he created an unstable world for himself, though he never gave up his individual freedom to choose his own pat
and his own destiny. In 1811 Byron embarked on a Grand Tour through the Mediterranean, and the experience was to influence him greatly. One attitude that he adopted from his travels
was that he disliked sharing a meal with or watching a woman eat. (Neurotic Poets P. http://users.ids.net/~bdragon/poets/byron.html)
John Murray once descried Byron as "Wild, audacious, rebellious, half mad by nature: a creature made to tempt and to be tempted, to seduce and to fall, about whom there was but one certainty, that he was irreclaimable." John Murray wrote this in part b
ause of the extravagant lifestyle Byron led. While at Trinity College in Cambridge he ran up large debts and it was rumored he kept a pet bear in his room. Also while at Cambridge, he developed a great fondness for a choirboy named John Edlestone. Af
r college, he resided at various places, including the family home at Newstead Abbey. It was here that the alleged "wild parties" took place at which Byron would make toasts with and drink from a skull cup. Legend has it that the skull, which Byron di
overed at Newstead, was that of a monk. He polished it up and added silver plates. The cup was "secretly buried" by a later owner of the property. Scrope Davies, Charles Matthews and John Cam Hobhouse were Byrons closest college friends. They took p
t in the wild house parties that had established Byrons reputation as a living embodiment of the gothic ideal- a young and handsome Lord living in a decaying abbey who drank copiously from a silver cup made from the dull of a dead monk followed by sexu
orgies with an in-house set of sex-slave servants. They had dressed up as monks for these festivities. This behavior was patterned on the reputation of the infamous Hell fire Club of fifty years before. It was a sort of elaborate Halloween party. (B
onic Bibliography www.jamm.com)
He fought a battle with obesity as well and often starved himself eating only one small meal per day. He seemed obsessed with food, as well as being a picky eater. His letters to others as well as his journals, indicate that he practiced starvation.
In his overnight success with the epic poem Childe Harolds Pilgrimage (1812) which led Byron to remark later that "I awoke and found myself famous." When I read these lines
from "To the Ocean" (From "Child Harolds Pilgrimage") It reveals a man whos very soul is tormented suffering from his own inner pain.
...There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is society, where none intrudes
By the deep sea, and music in its roar:
I love not man the less, but nature more,
From these our interview, in which I steal
From all I may be, or have been before,
To mingle with the universe, and feel
What I can neer express, yet cannot all conceal... (Byron, George Gordon- Lord Byron www.cc.gatech.edu/people/home.edris/Poetry/Byron.htm).
The long poems that followed sold well and enhanced his reputation for being daring and dashing. The young bachelor had romances with several women many of them married. One of the women remarked that he was "mad, bad and dangerous to know." There wa
speculation that he had an incestuous affair with his half-sister, Augusta Leigh. This idea is furthered by themes of incest and forbidden love that appear in several of Byrons poems. In the poem Manfred, he writes of the heros love for a woman who
"like me in lineaments; here eyes / Her hair, her features, all, to the very tone / Even of here voicewere like to mine." This is apparent in the line Byron wrote in "Lara" "His madness was not of the head, but heart." (Neurotic Poets P. 1-2 http:/
Brilliant, reckless, debauched, extravagant, handsome, Lord Byron was in the words of Matthew Arnold the "romantic hero at odds with the world and calling on all
sympathetic readers to view the pageant of his bleeding heart. "Famous/infamous in his own time, he left England after divorcing his completely respectable and entirely incompatible wife never to return. He wandered Europe fighting for freedoms and ta
his loves where he found them. The correspondence and journals of Byron fill six volumes, and his letters have been described as "wildly exclamatory, heavily underlined, with pages blotted and blistered with tears. Here is just one of the many love let
rs he had written to a young women he had fallen in love with and lost to another. This love letter is of Teresa, Countess Guiccioli, at sixteen had married an old and wealthy Italian nobleman. She was golden-haired, poised, well-read, and gentle. In
819, when she was eighteen and he thirty-one, Byron met her and fell passionately in love. The affair created quite a scandal. No one was surprised that she was married, it was expected that Italian women had affairs. However, Byron stayed in her hous
along with her husband, shocking society. Byrons style of writing with his heart is very apparent here is this love letter.
"My destiny rests with you"
Bologna, August 25, 1819
My Dearest Theresa, I have read this book in our garden: my love, you were absent, or else I could not have read it. It is a favorite book of mine. You will not understand these English words, and others will not understand them, which is the reason
have not scrawled them in Italian. But you will recognize the handwriting of him who passionately loved you, and you will divine that, over a book that was yours, he could only think of love. In that word, beautiful in all languages, but most so in you
Amor mio is comprised my existence here and thereafter. I feel I exist here, and I feel that I shall exist hereafter, to what purpose you will decide: my destiny rests with you, and you are a woman, eighteen years of age, and two out of convent, I wis
you had stayed there, with all my heart, or at least, that I had never met you in your married state. But all this
is too late. I love you, and you love me, at least, you say so, and act as if you did so, which last is a great consolation in all events. But I more than love you, and cannot cease
to love you. Think of me, sometimes, when the Alps and ocean divide us, but they never will, unless you wish it. (Lord Bryron letters P.1 www.rjgeib.com/throughts/byron/byron.html
One of Byrons most well know long poems was "Don Jaun" the story of Don Juan first appears in an old Spanish legend concerning a handsome but unscrupulous man who seduces the daughter of the commander of Seville and then, when challenged, kills her f
her in a duel. The poem begins "I want a hero"; that is, " I need a hero for my story." Why given the glimpse of the time that we are given in stanzas 1and 5, why is finding a hero in this age difficult? Byrons Don Juan is possible a parody of the ro
ntic hero acted upon rather than active, putty in the womans hands, terrorized by her outraged husband, caught in comical situations that strip him of any supposed dignity. but if hes not the kind of hero to be feared and respected, is there neverthe
ss something attractive about him? And is he in part likable for the very things that make him not a traditional hero? If so, is there a positive side to "wanting" a hero? Also is should be noted that in stanza 1 the pronunciation of the heros name
ymes with "newone" and "trueone." Byron clearly expressed his own life in his version of Don Juan in turning the anti-hero into a hero. Much of Don Juan seems to reflect Byrons own life and interpretation of himself. Theres some pretty unkind sati
in Byrons treatment of the educated woman (Although Byron denied any connection, certain aspects of this sections seem to reflect Byrons attitude to his wife, from whom he separated after one year of marriage.) Note the way that Byron uses bad rhym
to make for of Donna Inez and to ridicule her seriousness( "so fine as" to rhyme with "the brain of Donna Inez"; intellectual" to rhyme with "hen-pecked you all.") Part of the humor derives from the apparently-common assumption that the educated and in
woman will be aggressive and domineering. Remember that Mary Wollstonecraft, in arguing for a better education for women, felt it necessary to reassure her readers that they need not fear that women would then become "masculine."
Byron exposes the contradiction of elevating the classics as an important part of education, yet then being embarrassed by the sexual component in ancient myth and epic. In stanza 40, Byron has fun with an even more ridiculous aspect of repressive edu
tion: The Classics are published in different versions, in which any lines with sexual references in them are removed from the text, so that the text may be taught to schoolboys without the fear of corrupting them. But we are then told that, in respec
for the great writers, the editors put all the censored lines in a appendix at the back of the book--thus giving the schoolboys a concentrated bit of pornographic reading in one dose. (Don Jaun, Canto I http://citd.scar.utoronto.ca/English/ENGBO2Y/DonJ
I believe this was coming straight from his own sexual abuse by May Grey when he was a young schoolboy. It was his way of protecting younger boys from the same early sexual knowledge he had been exposed to.
I can see many displays in Don Juan that would suggest Lord Byron wrote about his own experiences in life. Here is yet another good example to show his inner pain being directly related to himself. In stanza 61 Donna Julia is presented with a mixture
sincerity and fun. The elevated though rather conventional praise of the womans beauty is suddenly deflated by the sudden lowering of tone in the last. The comic reversal, however, makes fun not of Donna Julia but of the poet, laughing at the lover
tendency to idealize (and at the embodiment of such idealization in the love sonnet) and bringing love down to a matter-of-fact human level.
Donna Julia herself, however, still follows the pattern of the idealized heroine. Donna Julia is portrayed to be pretty, gentle, sweet, sexually-attractive and even sexual responsive but also passive, submissive, self-sacrificing, and accepting of her
ate to the
point of victimization. In the early episode, Donna Julia breads somewhat out of this role by being the older (23 years old!) married woman and not the innocent girl. Byron thus somewhat reverses gender roles and has the sexually mature woman take a m
role in seducing the naive and innocent young man. (Don Juan, Canto I http://citd.scar.untoronto.ca/English/ENGBO2Y/DonJuan.html).I believe that Lord Byron was expressing is own pain of the sexual abuse he endured b
May Grey at school in his earlier childhood in the character Donna Julia. So in my opinion of all I have discovered about this literary poet is that Lord Byron was not born with a talent for writing poetry. He however did write from his own heart. Wh
h is what a truly brilliant poet must do.Had he not have been exposed to physical and sexual abuse in his youth. I feel there is a good possibility he would have never written a single poem He would have had a different profession altogether along w
h an entirely different life style. The world was blessed with the many poems of Lord Bryon but only through the suffering of another human being.