George Gordon Byron

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6th Lord Byron , portrait by Thomas Phillips (1813; Newstead Abbey )
Byron's signature

George Gordon Noel Byron, 6th Baron Byron (born January 22, 1788 in London , United Kingdom , † April 19, 1824 in Messolongi , Greece ), known as Lord Byron , was a British poet and one of the main exponents of English Romanticism . He was the father of Ada Lovelace and is also known as an important participant in the Greek fight for freedom .


Autograph letter from Byron to John Hanson (1808; Fondazione BEIC )
George Gordon Byron, 6th Baron Byron , painting by Richard Westall (1813; now in the National Portrait Gallery , London)

Byron was a grandson of John Byron , a South Seas explorer and British admiral. Byron's father, John "Mad Jack" Byron , a Guard captain in the British Army, died already in 1791. Byron spent his early childhood in the Scottish Aberdeen , raised by his mother, Catherine Gordon of Gight, a Scottish nobleman . He was strongly influenced by the Calvinist beliefs of his nanny May Gray. Byron had a clubfoot and suffered all his life from his often painful disability, which he felt as a degrading deformity and which restricted him socially, since he could not dance, for example.

After the death of his great-uncle William, Byron inherited the title of nobility Baron Byron of Rochdale in the County Palatine of Lancaster and the largely run-down Newstead Abbey at the age of ten . Byron was able to take the seat associated with the title in the House of Lords in 1808 - after reaching the age of majority . In 1809 he made a great trip to the Mediterranean : via Lisbon he went to Spain and also visited Malta , Albania , Greece and the coast of Asia Minor .

After his return, Byron became well known in 1812 for the publication of the first two Canti of Childe Harold's Pilgrimage . His words, I woke up one morning and found myself famous , were often quoted as “I woke up one morning and found myself famous ”. In the same year, Byron triggered a social scandal through his open relationship with the married Lady Caroline Lamb , which from then on shaped his reputation as a "man of dubious morality". Lady Caroline described the poet at the time as “mad, bad and dangerous to know” (“crazy, bad and dangerous to know”). While Byron saw the relationship as a mere affair that he soon ended, Lady Caroline had believed she was loved by Byron. As a result, she suffered from severe depression and anorexia . Byron wrote the poem Remember Thee , in which he ironized their behavior as melodrama.

Byron's half-sister Augusta, charcoal drawing by Georg Hayter
Annabella Milbanke, anonymous drawing (around 1813)

In 1813 Byron met his half-sister Augusta again in London , his father's daughter from his first marriage. The letters Byron wrote to his confidante Lady Melbourne at the time suggest an incestuous relationship between Augusta and her half-brother. Because Augusta had been separated from her husband George Leigh since 1811, Byron was allegedly the father of their daughter Elizabeth Medora, who was born in April 1814 . “This perverse passion was my deepest,” Byron wrote to Lady Melbourne from his later exile. Byron wrote several love poems for his sister: Stanzas for Augusta and Epistle for Augusta ; The motif of sibling love can be found repeatedly in his works: in Cain and Manfred the protagonists love their sisters. Lady Melbourne warned Byron of the social consequences should his inclination become public, and advised him to marry early to rehabilitate his reputation. Byron then became engaged to Melbourne's niece Annabella Milbanke .

Plaque on the Villa Diodati in Geneva in memory of Byron's stay in 1816

In 1815 the marriage took place in Seaham . The relationship between Byron and his wife became very tense after a short time: the passionate, imaginative and joke-prone artist and the serious, rationally inclined amateur mathematician suffered from character differences in their marriage. Annabelle also told her parents that Byron was prone to violent fits of anger. Their daughter Augusta Ada was born on December 10, 1815 . In early 1816, Byron expressed the wish that Annabelle should move with the daughter to her parents. She thought he was insane now. After they moved out, she made sure that the doctor treated Francis Le Mann Byron, whereby he was asked to assess Byron's state of mind, without Byron being aware of the matter. The doctor found Byron sane.

The scandalous separation of the couple led to a public scandal. Byron was socially isolated and left London on April 23 and England on April 25, 1816 permanently. From May, Byron rented the Villa Diodati in Cologny on Lake Geneva . He lived there with his personal doctor, John Polidori . In Cologny Byron received a visit from Percy Shelley and his partner Mary Godwin , the daughter of Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin . Inspired by the gloomy nocturnal atmosphere of the lake landscape in the year without summer , the group agreed to write horror stories. This ultimately resulted in Mary Shelley's novel Frankenstein or: The New Prometheus . Polidori wrote the short story The Vampyre , which is considered to be the literary beginning of the genre of vampire stories . At the time, Byron had an affair with Mary's stepsister Claire Clairmont , which resulted in his daughter Allegra.

Lord Byron in Albanian dress , painting by Thomas Phillips (around 1835; National Portrait Gallery)

Byron moved to Venice in October 1816 . There he visited the island of San Lazzaro degli Armeni , where he learned the Armenian language from the Armenian scholar Harutiun Avgerian and worked with him on the production of an Armenian and English grammar. In 1817 he sold the family seat of Newstead Abbey. Because of his political activities, inspired by his love affair with the married Countess Teresa Guiccioli , who belonged to the Italian freedom movement of the Carbonari , he came into conflict with the Italian princely houses and was banished to Pisa together with Countess Guiccioli , where both lived until 1823. This is where the Pisan Circle was created .

Lord Byron on His Deathbed , oil painting by Joseph-Denis Odevaere (around 1826; Groeninge Museum , Bruges)

In early 1823 Byron accepted the offer of command over the free Greek armed forces as Philhellene . A year later he died in Messolongi , Greece of the effects of hypothermia and the debilitating effects of medical bloodletting . Because of his commitment to the Greek independence movement , Byron is known and highly regarded in Greece to this day. The Attic community of Vyronas , which emerged after the Greco-Turkish War , was named after him around a hundred years after the poet's death. Byron's body was embalmed and shipped to England. His grave is in the Church of St. Mary Magdalene in Hucknall, Nottingham , near Newstead Abbey. In 1969 a plaque for Byron was placed in Poets' Corner at Westminster Abbey in London .

Literary importance

Byron's works, which can be assigned to the English Late Romanticism (so-called Black Romanticism or Negative Romanticism ), are characterized by the rejection of traditional structures. His heroes are, perhaps as a projection or staging of themselves, intelligent, courageous and passionate, but at the same time restless, vulnerable and lonely, so that they are ultimately denied satisfaction and happiness.

With the protagonists of his works, Byron created an archetypal figure in literature: the “ Byronic Hero ” (German translation sometimes: “Byronian hero”), who combines the passion of the romantic artistic personality with the egoism of a loner who is fixated on himself. The "Byronic Hero" is an outsider and a rebel, who is not interested in social change, but in the satisfaction of personal needs. The figure of Satan in John Milton's Paradise Lost is regarded as the forerunner of the “Byronic Hero” . At the same time, Byron and his hero created the myth about himself, making him one of the first artists to consciously cultivate a public image .

Some of Byron's best-known romantic poems (such as "She Walks in Beauty") were written as lyrics to Jewish melodies that his friend Isaac Nathan had composed and arranged. Originally published together, the poems became increasingly popular and were reprinted several times, while the music was forgotten.

In addition to an artistically inspiring friendship with Shelley Byron was including in correspondence with Goethe , which he his work Manfred in response to his own I devoted. After Byron's early death, Goethe erected a posthumous monument with the figure of Euphorion in Faust II . Heinrich Heine dedicated a poem to Byron ( A strong, black barge ).

Byron exerted great influence on the young Edgar Allan Poe , who portrayed him in his first story The Appointment . Byron's literature and figure were just as powerful for the young Friedrich Nietzsche . In this context, Nietzsche used the term " superman ", which was often quoted later, for the first time, characterizing Byron as a "spirit-ruling superman". The English painter William Turner and the Russian poet Alexander Pushkin were also influenced by Byron . Byron's hero became the forerunner of the " superfluous man " topos in Russian literature of the 1830s to 1850s; often in the works of this period explicit reference is made to Lord Byron ("Byronism").

Seal of the Greek community of Vyronas with the portrait of Byron

Honors and aftermath

Byron's memory is still present in Greece today. So Byron or Vyronas ( Greek Βύρων, Βύρονας ) a common today Greek first name (see. Byron Fidetzis ). The Attic community of Vyronas , an Athens suburb, is also named after Lord Byron. Numerous hotels bear the Byron name, including the Hôtel Byron, which existed between 1841 and 1929 on Lake Geneva .

Byron monument in the Villa Borghese garden in Rome
Ada King, Countess of Lovelace , portrait by Alfred Edward Chalon (around 1838; including Science Museum , London)


Individual works (selection)

  • Fugitive pieces. 1806.
  • Poems on Various Occasions. Hours of Idleness. 1807.
  • Epitaph to a Dog . 1808.
  • English Bards and Scotch Reviewers. 1809.
  • Childe Harold's Pilgrimage . Cantos 1-2. 1812.
  • The Giaour. The Bride of Abydos. 1813.
  • The Corsair. Lara. Ode to Napoleon Buonaparte. 1814 .
  • Hebrew Melodies. 1815.
  • The Prisoner of Chillon . 1816.
  • When in pain. 1816.
  • The Siege of Corinth. Parisina. Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, Canto 3. The Prisoner of Chillon. 1816.
  • Manfred . 1817.
  • Beppo. Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, Canto 4th 1818.
  • Mazeppa . Don juan Cantos 1-2. 1819.
  • Marino Faliero. Don juan Cantos 3-5. Cain. The Two Foscari. Sardanapalus. 1821.
  • Vision of Judgment. 1822.
  • Don juan Cantos 6-14. 1823.
  • Don juan Cantos 15-16. 1824.

Total expenditure

  • The Works of Lord Byron. Editors: Ernest Hartley Coleridge and RE Prothero. 13 volumes. London, 1898-1904. (Reprint New York, 1966.)
  • Lord Byron: The Complete Poetical Works. Ed. Jerome J. McGann. 7 volumes. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1980-1991.


  • TJ Wise: A Bibliography of the Writings in Verse and Prose of George Gordon Noel, Baron Byron. 2 volumes. Private print 1933. Reprint London, 1962 and 1972.


  • Frederick L. Beaty: Byron the Satirist , Northern Illinois University Press, 1985. ISBN 0-87580-109-9 .
  • Peter Cochran (Ed.): Byron's Religions. Cambridge Scholars Publisher, 2011 ( preview of the book on Google Books )
  • Helene von Druskowitz : About Lord Byron's Don Juan: a literary-aesthetic treatise . Dissertation at the University of Zurich in 1879.
  • Gerhard Grimm: Byron, George Gordon , in: Biographisches Lexikon zur Geschichte Südosteuropas , Vol. 1. Munich 1974, p. 279
  • Teresa Guiccioli : Des idées religieuses de Lord Byron . Amyot, Paris 1866 ( digitized from Google Books).
  • Jürgen Klein : Byron's romantic nihilism (= Salzburg Studies in English Literature, Vol. 97), Institute for English and American Studies, Salzburg 1979, ISBN 978-0-77340269-0 .
  • Leslie A. Marchand: Byron's Poetry. A Critical Introduction . Houghton Mifflin, Boston 1965.
  • William H. Marshall: The Structure of Byron's Major Poems . Philadelphia and Oxford University Press 1962; repr. 1974.
  • Guy Stefan: Lord Byron's "Don Juan". In: Willi Erzgräber (Hrsg.): Interpretations Volume 8. English literature from William Blake to Thomas Hardy . Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 1970, pp. 146-166 (Fischer-Bücherei Vol. 6027).


  • Felix Eberty : Lord Byron. A biography. 2 volumes. Leipzig 1862
  • Benita Eisler: Byron - The hero in costume . Translated by Maria Mill. Blessing, Munich 1999, ISBN 3-89667-082-4 .
  • Teresa Guiccioli : Lord Byron jugé par les témoins de sa vie , 2 vols., 1868 (digitized volume 1 and 2 on Google Books )
  • Teresa Guiccioli: Vie de Lord Byron en Italie , 1983 (English translation: Lord Byron's Life in Italy , 1988)
  • Leslie A. Marchand, Byron: A Biography. 3 vols. Knopf, New York 1957.
  • André Maurois : Don Juan or the life of Lord Byron. A biography. Piper, Munich / Zurich 1990, ISBN 3-492-11210-2 .
  • Hartmut Müller: Lord Byron: In self-testimonies and picture documents. Rowohlt, Reinbek near Hamburg 1997, ISBN 3-499-50297-6 .

Novels about Byron


  • From the Sinful Poet , GB 1949
  • Gothic , GB 1986
  • Remando al viento , ES 1988 (English version: Rowing with the Wind )
  • Haunted Summer (variant in German: Schwarzer Sommer ), USA 1988
  • Roger Cormans Frankenstein , USA 1990
  • Highlander - Das Leben der Bohème , original title: The Modern Prometheus, episode 105 of the Highlander television series, USA 1997
  • Byron , GB 2003


Classical music

Other styles of music

  • Byronic Man - Cradle of Filth ( Thornography ), a song written from the point of view of the "Byronian hero", which partly refers to the biography of Lord Byron.
  • Go No More A-Roving - Leonard Cohen , on his 2004 album Dear Heather, there is a musical interpretation of Byron's poem of the same name.
  • Before the time - Schiller , on her album Sehnsucht Ben Becker reads the poem to a musical interpretation of the poem.
  • Dark Lochnagar - setting of the eponymous Byron poem by the band Green Highland on the album Farewell to a Friend , 2007.
  • Lord Byron Blues - Le London All Star ( Jimmy Page among others ), on the album British Percussion .
  • A Curse of the Grandest Kind - The Vision Bleak ( Set Sail to Mystery ), the intro of the fourth studio album by the gothic metal band with a text by Lord Byron.

Web links

Commons : George Gordon Byron  - album with pictures, videos and audio files
Wikisource: George Gordon Byron  - Sources and full texts
Wikisource: George Gordon Byron  - Sources and full texts (English)

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Work information on the website of the National Portrait Gallery.
  2. m. Lady Melbourne (see below).
  3. ^ John Becket: Byron and Newstead, p. 211
  4. ^ The Key to Armenia's Survival . In: The New York Times , February 23, 2012; Retrieved March 5, 2012
  5. ( Homepage of the municipality of Vyronas )
  6. Worldcat entry on Stadelmann, Heinrich , the translator of the Hebrew melodies .
  7. ^ Friedrich Nietzsche: Jugendschriften . Volume 2. dtv, Munich 1994, p. 10.
predecessor Office successor
William Byron Baron Byron
George Byron