Lord Byron is the quintessential dark and dashing figure of poetry - described by his lover Lady Caroline Lamb as "mad, bad and dangerous to know". He is remembered as much for his flamboyant personality and brooding good looks as for his writing, but Lord Byron was the poet who captivated the imagination of the world.
George Gordon Byron was born lame in 1788, and grew up in shabby surroundings in Aberdeen, with his hysterical mother. His first sexual experiences were early - Byron suggested he'd been seduced by his governess before his 10th birthday - and as a teenager, he fell in love with three of his cousins. Raucous years of dissipated living followed at his ancestral home, Newstead Abbey.
During an extended tour of Europe, Byron wrote Books I and II of Child Harold's Pilgrimage, a poem about a sated pleasure-seeker grown sick of life, which won him instant fame back in England. His lovelife became more extravagant, with an intimate relationship with his half-sister Augusta ensued, followed by a disastrous marriage to Annabella Milbanke. To escape the scandal, Byron fled to the Continent, where Shelley became his travelling companion. But his raucous lifestyle continued, and his escapades in Venice with the Countess Guiccioli provided material for his picaresque social comedy, Don Juan. True to his radical values, he joined insurgent forces in the Greek War of Independence, where he caught marsh fever and died at Missolonghi in 1824, aged only 36.
She walks in beauty like the night
of cloudless climes and starry skies
The Nation's Favourite Poet
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