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Byron (1788 - 1824)

Lifespan: 1780s - 1824

In 1843 famed critic Sainte-Beuve wrote that Byron and Sade "are perhaps the two greatest inspirations of our moderns, the first openly and visibly, the second clandestinely, but not very."

Related: British literature - poetry - Byronic hero


George Gordon (Noel) Byron, 6th Baron Byron (January 22, 1788 April 19, 1824) was the most widely read English language poet of his day. His best-known works are the narrative poems Childe Harold's Pilgrimage and Don Juan. The latter remained incomplete on his death.

Byron's fame rests not only on his writings, but also on his life, which featured extravagant living, debts, separation, allegations of incest and his eventual death from fever after he travelled to fight on the Greek side in the Greek War of Independence. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lord_Byron [Jun 2005]


Lord Byron, by all accounts, had a particularly attractive personality one may say astonishingly so. He obtained a reputation as being unconventional, eccentric, flamboyant and controversial. One of the most curious patterns in both his life and his writings involves the conflict between his oft-expressed cynicism about humanity, and his passion for defending the downtrodden. From his early schooldays, he had a reputation as a ferocious enemy of bullies, and in his brief time in Parliament he defended both Catholics and Luddites.

Byron had a great fondness for animals, most famously for a Newfoundland dog named Boatswain; when Boatswain contracted rabies, Byron reportedly nursed him without any fear of becoming bitten and infected. Boatswain lies buried at Newstead Abbey the family's ancestral home that Byron sold in 1818 for 94,500 to pay his debts and has a monument larger than his master's. The inscription, Byron's "Epitaph to a dog", has become one of his best-known works.

Lord Byron also kept a bear (reputedly because Cambridge had rules forbidding dogs), a fox, monkeys, a parrot, cats, an eagle, a crow, a falcon, peacocks, guinea hens, an Egyptian crane, a badger, geese, and a heron. Lady Caroline Lamb famously described him as "mad, bad and dangerous to know". Many attribute some of Byron's extraordinary abilities to his affliction with bipolar disorder, commonly known as manic depression.

Byron allegedly had an abnormally large brain, claimed by Carl Sagan in his book The Dragons of Eden as having weighed 2.2 kilograms--far short of the ten pound (4.5 kilogram) estimate generally considered to be apocryphal. In spite of his deformed right leg he rather excelled at athletics and turned out for Harrow in the annual cricket match at Lord's against Eton. Byron was a strong swimmer and, in emulation of Leander, swam the Hellespont. He said the swim exhausted him so much that he feared Leander would not have had much energy left for his love, Hero the beautiful priestess of Venus waiting for him on the other side at Sestos! He also swam the mouth of the Tagus River, and from the Lido to the Rialto Bridges in Venice. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lord_Byron#Character [Jun 2005]

see also: character

Cult of personality

Long before anyone coined the phrase "cult of personality," Byron had it down cold. He knew the art of shaping his own myth. James Dickey, who knew how that game was played, was rather admiring when he said Byron was the kind of "enormous phony ... who makes the public take him on his own terms, the terms of his persona." Byron warned against reading too much of him into his poems, but the poems begged you to do otherwise, even when they weren't frankly autobiographical. Byron also claimed to draw from personal experience; where love and life were concerned, there was no substitute for the real thing. That was the source of his beef with John Keats, whose poetry he dismissed as "a sort of mental masturbation -- he is always f--gg--g his Imagination." For Byron, "The great object of life is Sensation -- to feel that we exist -- even though in pain -- it is this 'craving void' which drives us to Gaming -- to Battle -- to Travel -- to intemperate but keenly felt pursuits of every description whose principal attraction is the agitation inseparable from their accomplishment." --Rodney Welch, http://blogcritics.org/archives/2003/06/03/221520.php

Conceiving Ada (1999) - Lynn Hershman-Leeson

Conceiving Ada (1999) - Lynn Hershman-Leeson [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Ada Byron
Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace (December 10, 1815 - November 27, 1852) is mainly known for having written a description of Charles Babbage's early mechanical general-purpose computer, the analytical engine. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ada_Lovelace [Mar 2005]

Charles Babbage
Charles Babbage (December 26, 1791 - October 18, 1871) was an English mathematician, analytical philosopher and (proto-) computer scientist who was the first person to come up with the idea of a programmable computer. Parts of his uncompleted mechanisms are on display in the London Science Museum. In 1991, working from Babbage's original plans, a Difference Engine was completed, and functioned perfectly. They were built to tolerances achievable in the 19th century, indicating that Babbage's machine would have worked. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Babbage [Mar 2005]

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