100 Facts About Byron


Byron was educated at Trinity College at Cambridge, and later travelled extensively across Europe, especially in Italy, where he lived for seven years in Venice, Ravenna, and Pisa.

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Later in life Byron joined the Greek War of Independence fighting the Ottoman Empire and died leading a campaign during that war, for which Greeks revere him as a folk hero.

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Byron died in 1824 at the age of 36 from a fever contracted after the First and Second Sieges of Missolonghi.

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Byron's only legitimate child, Ada Lovelace, was a founding figure in the field of computer programming based on her notes for Charles Babbage's Analytical Engine.

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Byron was the only child of Captain John Byron and his second wife Catherine Gordon, heiress of the Gight estate in Aberdeenshire, Scotland.

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Byron's mother had to sell her land and title to pay her new husband's debts, and in the space of two years, the large estate, worth some £23, 500, had been squandered, leaving the former heiress with an annual income in trust of only £150.

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Byron's father appears to have wished to call his son 'William', but as her husband remained absent, his mother named him after her own father George Gordon of Gight, who was a descendant of James I of Scotland, and died by suicide in 1779.

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Byron had been born with a deformed right foot; his mother once retaliated and, in a fit of temper, referred to him as "a lame brat".

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Byron obtained a Royal Warrant, allowing him to "take and use the surname of Noel only" and to "subscribe the said surname of Noel before all titles of honour".

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Lady Byron eventually succeeded to the Barony of Wentworth, becoming "Lady Wentworth".

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Byron's mother interfered with his studies, often withdrawing him from school, with the result that he lacked discipline and his classical studies were neglected.

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Byron fell in love with Mary Chaworth, whom he met while at school, and she was the reason he refused to return to Harrow in September 1803.

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Byron's mother wrote, "He has no indisposition that I know of but love, desperate love, the worst of all maladies in my opinion.

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Byron finally returned in January 1804, to a more settled period which saw the formation of a circle of emotional involvements with other Harrow boys, which he recalled with great vividness: "My school friendships were with me passions".

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Byron stated that Byron had originally intended to prefix an argument to this poem, and Dallas quoted it.

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Byron racked up numerous debts as a young man, owing to what his mother termed a "reckless disregard for money".

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Byron's lived at Newstead during this time, in fear of her son's creditors.

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Byron had planned to spend early 1808 cruising with his cousin George Bettesworth, who was captain of the 32-gun frigate HMS Tartar.

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From 1809 to 1811, Byron went on the Grand Tour, then customary for a young nobleman.

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Byron travelled with Hobhouse for the first year and his entourage of servants included Byron's trustworthy valet, William Fletcher.

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Byron began his trip in Portugal from where he wrote a letter to his friend Mr Hodgson in which he describes his mastery of the Portuguese language, consisting mainly of swearing and insults.

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Byron particularly enjoyed his stay in Sintra that is described in Childe Harold's Pilgrimage as "glorious Eden".

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Byron sent Giraud to school at a monastery in Malta and bequeathed him the sizeable sum of £7, 000.

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In 1810 in Athens, Byron wrote "Maid of Athens, ere we part" for a 12-year-old girl, Teresa Makri.

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Byron commemorated this feat in the second canto of Don Juan.

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Byron was sought after at every society venue, elected to several exclusive clubs, and frequented the most fashionable London drawing-rooms.

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Byron was joined by Mary's stepsister, Claire Clairmont, with whom he had had an affair in London.

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Several times Byron went to see Germaine de Stael and her Coppet group, which turned out to be a valid intellectual and emotional support to Byron at the time.

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Byron wintered in Venice, pausing his travels when he fell in love with Marianna Segati, in whose Venice house he was lodging, and who was replaced by 22-year-old Margarita Cogni; both women were married.

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In 1816, Byron visited San Lazzaro degli Armeni in Venice, where he acquainted himself with Armenian culture with the help of the monks belonging to the Mechitarist Order.

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Byron co-authored Grammar English and Armenian in 1817, an English textbook written by Aucher and corrected by Byron, and A Grammar Armenian and English in 1819, a project he initiated of a grammar of Classical Armenian for English speakers, where he included quotations from classical and modern Armenian.

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Byron later helped to compile the English Armenian Dictionary and wrote the preface, in which he explained Armenian oppression by the Turkish pashas and the Persian satraps and the Armenian struggle of liberation.

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Byron's fascination was so great that he even considered a replacement of the Cain story of the Bible with that of the legend of Armenian patriarch Haik.

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In 1821, Byron left Ravenna and went to live in the Tuscan city of Pisa, to which Teresa had relocated.

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Byron decided to have his own yacht, and engaged Trelawny's friend, Captain Daniel Roberts, to design and construct the boat.

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Byron attended the beachside cremation of Shelley, which was orchestrated by Trelawny after Williams and Shelley drowned in a boating accident on 8 July 1822.

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Byron was living in Genoa when, in 1823, while growing bored with his life there, he accepted overtures for his support from representatives of the movement for Greek independence from the Ottoman Empire.

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At first, Byron did not wish to leave his 22-year-old mistress, Countess Teresa Guiccioli, who had abandoned her husband to live with him; ultimately Guiccioli's father, Count Gamba, was allowed to leave his exile in the Romagna under the condition that his daughter return to him, without Byron.

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When Byron left Genoa, it caused "passionate grief" from Guiccioli, who wept openly as he sailed away to Greece.

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Byron's voyage is covered in detail in Donald Prell's Sailing with Byron from Genoa to Cephalonia.

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The Hercules was aged 37 when, on 21 September 1852, she went aground near Hartlepool, only 25 miles south of Sunderland, where in 1815, her keel was laid; Byron's "keel was laid" nine months before his official birth date, 22 January 1788; therefore in ship-years, he was aged 37, when he died in Missolonghi.

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Byron initially stayed on the island of Kefalonia, where he was besieged by agents of the rival Greek factions, all of whom wanted to recruit Byron to their own cause.

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Byron spent £4, 000 of his own money to refit the Greek fleet.

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Byron moved to the second floor of a two-story house and was forced to spend much of his time dealing with unruly Souliotes who demanded that Byron pay them the back-pay owed to them by the Greek government.

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Byron was supposed to lead an attack on the Ottoman fortress of Navpaktos, whose Albanian garrison were unhappy due to pay arrears and who offered to put up only token resistance if Byron was willing to bribe them into surrendering.

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However, Ottoman commander Yussuf Pasha executed the mutinous Albanian officers who were offering to surrender Navpaktos to Byron and arranged to have some of the pay arrears paid out to the rest of the garrison.

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Byron wrote about his right-hand man: "Gamba—who is anything but lucky—had something to do with it—and as usual—the moment he had—matters went wrong".

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In today's money Byron would have been a millionaire many times over, and the news that a fabulously wealthy British aristocrat known for his generosity in spending money had arrived in Greece made Byron the object of much solicitation in a desperately poor country like Greece.

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Byron wrote to his business agent in England, "I should not like to give the Greeks but a half helping hand", saying he would have wanted to spend his entire fortune on Greek freedom.

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Byron found himself besieged by various people, both Greek and foreign, who tried to persuade Byron to open up his pocketbook to support them.

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Byron used his prestige to attempt to persuade the two rival leaders to come together to focus on defeating the Ottomans.

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At same time, other leaders of the Greek factions like Petrobey Mavromichalis and Theodoros Kolokotronis wrote letters to Byron telling him to disregard all of the Roumeliot leaders and to come to their respective areas in the Peloponnese.

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Androutsos, having won over Trelawny to his cause, was now anxious to persuade Byron to put his wealth behind his claim to be the leader of Greece.

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Byron wrote with disgust about how one of the Greek captains, former Klepht Georgios Karaiskakis, attacked Missolonghi on 3 April 1824 with some 150 men supported by the Souliotes as he was unhappy with Mavrokordatos's leadership, leading to a brief bout of inter-Greek fighting before Karaiskakis was chased away by 6 April.

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Byron adopted a nine-year-old Turkish Muslim girl called Hato whose parents had been killed by the Greeks.

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Byron ultimately sent her to safety in Kefalonia, knowing well that religious hatred between the Orthodox Greeks and Muslim Turks was running high and that any Muslim in Greece, even a child, was in serious danger.

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Byron was infatuated with the teenage Chalandritsanos, whom he spoiled outrageously, spending some £600 to cater to his every whim over the course of six months and writing his last poems about his passion for the Greek boy, but Chalandritsanos was only interested in Byron's money.

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Mavrokordatos and Byron planned to attack the Turkish-held fortress of Lepanto, at the mouth of the Gulf of Corinth.

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Byron employed a fire-master to prepare artillery, and he took part of the rebel army under his own command, despite his lack of military experience.

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The British historian David Brewer wrote that in one sense, Byron failed to persuade the rival Greek factions to unite, won no victories and was successful only in the humanitarian sphere, using his great wealth to help the victims of the war, Christian and Muslim, but this did not affect the outcome of the Greek war of independence.

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Byron's body was embalmed, but the Greeks wanted some part of their hero to stay with them.

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Byron's other remains were sent to England for burial in Westminster Abbey, but the Abbey refused for reason of "questionable morality".

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Byron is buried at the Church of St Mary Magdalene in Hucknall, Nottinghamshire.

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Byron's friends raised the sum of £1, 000 to commission a statue of the writer; Thorvaldsen offered to sculpt it for that amount.

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Robert Ripley had drawn a picture of Boatswain's grave with the caption "Lord Byron's dog has a magnificent tomb while Lord Byron himself has none".

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Byron described his first intense feelings at age seven for his distant cousin Mary Duff:.

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Byron's was later dismissed, supposedly for beating Byron when he was 11.

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Byron's personality has been characterised as exceptionally proud and sensitive, especially when it came to his deformity.

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Byron, was attached to Nicolo Giraud, a young French-Greek lad who had been a model for the painter Lusieri before Byron found him.

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In 1812, Byron embarked on a well-publicised affair with the married Lady Caroline Lamb that shocked the British public.

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Byron's had spurned the attention of the poet on their first meeting, subsequently giving Byron what became his lasting epitaph when she famously described him as "mad, bad and dangerous to know".

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Byron eventually broke off the relationship and moved swiftly on to others, but Lamb never entirely recovered, pursuing him even after he tired of her.

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Byron's was emotionally disturbed and lost so much weight that Byron sarcastically commented to her mother-in-law, his friend Lady Melbourne, that he was "haunted by a skeleton".

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Byron's began to call on him at home, sometimes dressed in disguise as a pageboy, at a time when such an act could ruin both of them socially.

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Byron's is recognised as one of the world's first computer programmers.

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Byron had an extramarital child in 1817, Clara Allegra Byron, with Claire Clairmont, stepsister of Mary Shelley and stepdaughter of William Godwin, writer of Political Justice and Caleb Williams.

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Byron wished for her to be brought up Catholic and not marry an Englishman, and he made arrangements for her to inherit 5, 000 lira upon marriage or when she reached the age of 21, provided she did not marry a native of Britain.

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Byron had Allegra's body sent back to England to be buried at his old school, Harrow, because Protestants could not be buried in consecrated ground in Catholic countries.

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Byron was antagonistic towards Allegra's mother, Claire Clairmont, and prevented her from seeing the child.

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Byron had a great love of animals, most notably for a Newfoundland dog named Boatswain.

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Byron kept a tame bear while he was a student at Trinity, out of resentment for rules forbidding pet dogs like his beloved Boatswain.

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Byron was extremely self-conscious about this from a young age, nicknaming himself.

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Byron first met Byron on a voyage to Sardinia and did not realise he had any deficiency for several days, and still could not tell at first if the lameness was a temporary injury or not.

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Byron was renowned for his personal beauty, which he enhanced by wearing curl-papers in his hair at night.

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Byron was athletic, being a competent boxer and horse-rider and an excellent swimmer.

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Byron attended pugilistic tuition at the Bond Street rooms of former prizefighting champion 'Gentleman' John Jackson, whom Byron called 'the Emperor of Pugilism', and recorded these sparring sessions in his letters and journals.

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Byron exercised a great deal, and at that time wore a great many clothes to cause himself to perspire.

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Trelawny, who observed Byron's eating habits, noted that he lived on a diet of biscuits and soda water for days at a time and then would eat a "horrid mess of cold potatoes, rice, fish, or greens, deluged in vinegar, and gobble it up like a famished dog".

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Byron first took his seat in the House of Lords on 13 March 1809 but left London on 11 June 1809 for the Continent.

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Byron said later that he "spoke very violent sentences with a sort of modest impudence" and thought he came across as "a bit theatrical".

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Two months later, in conjunction with the other Whigs, Byron made another impassioned speech before the House of Lords in support of Catholic emancipation.

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Byron expressed opposition to the established religion because it was unfair to people of other faiths.

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These experiences inspired Byron to write political poems such as Song for the Luddites and The Landlords' Interest, Canto XIV of The Age of Bronze.

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Byron published the first two cantos anonymously in 1819 after disputes with his regular publisher over the shocking nature of the poetry.

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In Canto III of Don Juan, Byron expresses his detestation for poets such as William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

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Byron wrote the satirical pamphlet Irish Avatar after the royal visit by King George IV to Ireland.

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Byron was a bitter opponent of Lord Elgin's removal of the Parthenon marbles from Athens and "reacted with fury" when Elgin's agent gave him a tour of the Parthenon, during which he saw the spaces left by the missing friezes and metopes.

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Byron denounced Elgin's actions in his poem The Curse of Minerva and in Canto II of Childe Harold's Pilgrimage.

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Byron exercised a marked influence on Continental literature and art, and his reputation as a poet is higher in many European countries than in Britain, or America, although not as high as in his time, when he was widely thought to be the greatest poet in the world.

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Byron's poetry was set to music by many Romantic composers, including Beethoven, Schubert, Rossini, Mendelssohn, Schumann and Carl Loewe.

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