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Don Juan: Canto The Fourteenth

Author of work:
George Gordon Byron
If from great nature's or our own abyss Of thought we could but snatch a certainty, Perhaps mankind might find the path they miss-- But then 'twould spoil much good philosophy. One system eats another up, and this Much as old Saturn ate his progeny; For when his pious consort gave him stones In lieu of sons, of these he made no bones.
But System doth reverse the Titan's breakfast, And eats her parents, albeit the digestion Is difficult. Pray tell me, can you make fast, After due search, your faith to any question? Look back o'er ages, ere unto the stake fast You bind yourself, and call some mode the best one. Nothing more true than not to trust your senses; And yet what are your other evidences?
For me, I know nought; nothing I deny, Admit, reject, contemn; and what know you, Except perhaps that you were born to die? And both may after all turn out untrue. An age may come, Font of Eternity, When nothing shall be either old or new. Death, so call'd, is a thing which makes men weep, And yet a third of life is pass'd in sleep.
A sleep without dreams, after a rough day Of toil, is what we covet most; and yet How clay shrinks back from more quiescent clay! The very Suicide that pays his debt At once without instalments (an old way Of paying debts, which creditors regret) Lets out impatiently his rushing breath, Less from disgust of life than dread of death.
'Tis round him, near him, here, there, every where; And there's a courage which grows out of fear, Perhaps of all most desperate, which will dare The worst to know it:--when the mountains rear Their peaks beneath your human foot, and there You look down o'er the precipice, and drear The gulf of rock yawns,--you can't gaze a minute Without an awful wish to plunge within it.
'Tis true, you don't - but, pale and struck with terror, Retire: but look into your past impression! And you will find, though shuddering at the mirror Of your own thoughts, in all their self--confession, The lurking bias, be it truth or error, To the unknown; a secret prepossession, To plunge with all your fears - but where? You know not, And that's the reason why you do - or do not.
But what's this to the purpose? you will say. Gent. reader, nothing; a mere speculation, For which my sole excuse is - 'tis my way; Sometimes with and sometimes without occasion I write what's uppermost, without delay: This narrative is not meant for narration, But a mere airy and fantastic basis, To build up common things with common places.
You know, or don't know, that great Bacon saith, 'Fling up a straw, 'twill show the way the wind blows;' And such a straw, borne on by human breath, Is poesy, according as the mind glows; A paper kite which flies 'twixt life and death, A shadow which the onward soul behind throws: And mine's a bubble, not blown up for praise, But just to play with, as an infant plays.
The world is all before me - or behind; For I have seen a portion of that same, And quite enough for me to keep in mind;-- Of passions, too, I have proved enough to blame, To the great pleasure of our friends, mankind, Who like to mix some slight alloy with fame; For I was rather famous in my time, Until I fairly knock'd it up with rhyme.
I have brought this world about my ears, and eke The other; that's to say, the clergy, who Upon my head have bid their thunders break In pious libels by no means a few. And yet I can't help scribbling once a week, Tiring old readers, nor discovering new. In youth I wrote because my mind was full, And now because I feel it growing dull.
But 'why then publish?'- There are no rewards Of fame or profit when the world grows weary. I ask in turn,--Why do you play at cards? Why drink? Why read?- To make some hour less dreary. It occupies me to turn back regards On what I've seen or ponder'd, sad or cheery; And what I write I cast upon the stream, To swim or sink - I have had at least my dream.
I think that were I certain of success, I hardly could compose another line: So long I've battled either more or less, That no defeat can drive me from the Nine. This feeling 'tis not easy to express, And yet 'tis not affected, I opine. In play, there are two pleasures for your choosing - The one is winning, and the other losing.
Besides, my Muse by no means deals in fiction: She gathers a repertory of facts, Of course with some reserve and slight restriction, But mostly sings of human things and acts - And that's one cause she meets with contradiction; For too much truth, at first sight, ne'er attracts; And were her object only what's call'd glory, With more ease too she 'd tell a different story.
Love, war, a tempest - surely there 's variety; Also a seasoning slight of lucubration; A bird's-eye view, too, of that wild, Society; A slight glance thrown on men of every station. If you have nought else, here 's at least satiety Both in performance and in preparation; And though these lines should only line portmanteaus, Trade will be all the better for these Cantos.
The portion of this world which I at present Have taken up to fill the following sermon, Is one of which there's no description recent. The reason why is easy to determine: Although it seems both prominent and pleasant, There is a sameness in its gems and ermine, A dull and family likeness through all ages, Of no great promise for poetic pages.
With much to excite, there's little to exalt; Nothing that speaks to all men and all times; A sort of varnish over every fault; A kind of common-place, even in their crimes; Factitious passions, wit without much salt, A want of that true nature which sublimes Whate'er it shows with truth; a smooth monotony Of character, in those at least who have got any.
Sometimes, indeed, like soldiers off parade, They break their ranks and gladly leave the drill; But then the roll-call draws them back afraid, And they must be or seem what they were: still Doubtless it is a brilliant masquerade; But when of the first sight you have had your fill, It palls - at least it did so upon me, This paradise of pleasure and ennui.
When we have made our love, and gamed our gaming, Drest, voted, shone, and, may be, something more; With dandies dined; heard senators declaiming; Seen beauties brought to market by the score, Sad rakes to sadder husbands chastely taming; There's little left but to be bored or bore. Witness those 'ci-devant jeunes hommes' who stem The stream, nor leave the world which leaveth them.
'Tis said - indeed a general complaint - That no one has succeeded in describing The monde, exactly as they ought to paint: Some say, that authors only snatch, by bribing The porter, some slight scandals strange and quaint, To furnish matter for their moral gibing; And that their books have but one style in common - My lady's prattle, filter'd through her woman.
But this can't well be true, just now; for writers Are grown of the beau monde a part potential: I've seen them balance even the scale with fighters, Especially when young, for that's essential. Why do their sketches fail them as inditers Of what they deem themselves most consequential, The real portrait of the highest tribe? 'Tis that, in fact, there's little to describe.
'Haud ignara loquor;' these are Nugae, 'quarum Pars parva fui,' but still art and part. Now I could much more easily sketch a harem, A battle, wreck, or history of the heart, Than these things; and besides, I wish to spare 'em, For reasons which I choose to keep apart. 'Vetabo Cereris sacrum qui vulgarit-' Which means that vulgar people must not share it.
And therefore what I throw off is ideal - Lower'd, leaven'd, like a history of freemasons; Which bears the same relation to the real, As Captain Parry's voyage may do to Jason's. The grand arcanum's not for men to see all; My music has some mystic diapasons; And there is much which could not be appreciated In any manner by the uninitiated.
Alas! worlds fall - and woman, since she fell'd The world (as, since that history less polite Than true, hath been a creed so strictly held) Has not yet given up the practice quite. Poor thing of usages! coerced, compell'd, Victim when wrong, and martyr oft when right, Condemn'd to child-bed, as men for their sins Have shaving too entail'd upon their chins,--
A daily plague, which in the aggregate May average on the whole with parturition. But as to women, who can penetrate The real sufferings of their she condition? Man's very sympathy with their estate Has much of selfishness, and more suspicion. Their love, their virtue, beauty, education, But form good housekeepers, to breed a nation.
All this were very well, and can't be better; But even this is difficult, Heaven knows, So many troubles from her birth beset her, Such small distinction between friends and foes, The gilding wears so soon from off her fetter, That - but ask any woman if she'd choose (Take her at thirty, that is) to have been Female or male? a schoolboy or a queen?
'Petticoat influence' is a great reproach, Which even those who obey would fain be thought To fly from, as from hungry pikes a roach; But since beneath it upon earth we are brought, By various joltings of life's hackney coach, I for one venerate a petticoat- A garment of a mystical sublimity, No matter whether russet, silk, or dimity.
Much I respect, and much I have adored, In my young days, that chaste and goodly veil, Which holds a treasure, like a miser's hoard, And more attracts by all it doth conceal- A golden scabbard on a Damasque sword, A loving letter with a mystic seal, A cure for grief - for what can ever rankle Before a petticoat and peeping ankle?
And when upon a silent, sullen day, With a sirocco, for example, blowing, When even the sea looks dim with all its spray, And sulkily the river's ripple's flowing, And the sky shows that very ancient gray, The sober, sad antithesis to glowing,-- 'Tis pleasant, if then any thing is pleasant, To catch a glimpse even of a pretty peasant.
We left our heroes and our heroines In that fair clime which don't depend on climate, Quite independent of the Zodiac's signs, Though certainly more difficult to rhyme at, Because the sun, and stars, and aught that shines, Mountains, and all we can be most sublime at, Are there oft dull and dreary as a dun - Whether a sky's or tradesman's is all one.
An in-door life is less poetical; And out of door hath showers, and mists, and sleet, With which I could not brew a pastoral. But be it as it may, a bard must meet All difficulties, whether great or small, To spoil his undertaking or complete, And work away like spirit upon matter, Embarrass'd somewhat both with fire and water.
Juan - in this respect, at least, like saints - Was all things unto people of all sorts, And lived contentedly, without complaints, In camps, in ships, in cottages, or courts - Born with that happy soul which seldom faints, And mingling modestly in toils or sports. He likewise could be most things to all women, Without the coxcombry of certain she men.
A fox -hunt to a foreigner is strange; 'T is also subject to the double danger Of tumbling first, and having in exchange Some pleasant jesting at the awkward stranger: But Juan had been early taught to range The wilds, as doth an Arab turn'd avenger, So that his horse, or charger, hunter, hack, Knew that he had a rider on his back.
And now in this new field, with some applause, He clear'd hedge, ditch, and double post, and rail, And never craned, and made but few 'faux pas,' And only fretted when the scent 'gan fail. He broke, 'tis true, some statutes of the laws Of hunting - for the sagest youth is frail; Rode o'er the hounds, it may be, now and then, And once o'er several country gentlemen.
But on the whole, to general admiration He acquitted both himself and horse: the squires Marvell'd at merit of another nation; The boors cried 'Dang it? who'd have thought it?'--Sires, The Nestors of the sporting generation, Swore praises, and recall'd their former fires; The huntsman's self relented to a grin, And rated him almost a whipper-in.
Such were his trophies--not of spear and shield, But leaps, and bursts, and sometimes foxes' brushes; Yet I must own,--although in this I yield To patriot sympathy a Briton's blushes,--He thought at heart like courtly Chesterfield, Who, after a long chase o'er hills, dales, bushes, And what not, though he rode beyond all price, Ask'd next day, 'If men ever hunted twice?'
He also had a quality uncommon To early risers after a long chase, Who wake in winter ere the cock can summon December's drowsy day to his dull race,-- A quality agreeable to woman, When her soft, liquid words run on apace, Who likes a listener, whether saint or sinner,-- He did not fall asleep just after dinner;
But, light and airy, stood on the alert, And shone in the best part of dialogue, By humouring always what they might assert, And listening to the topics most in vogue; Now grave, now gay, but never dull or pert; And smiling but in secret--cunning rogue! He ne'er presumed to make an error clearer;- In short, there never was a better hearer.
And then he danced;- all foreigners excel The serious Angles in the eloquence Of pantomime;--he danced, I say, right well, With emphasis, and also with good sense-- A thing in footing indispensable; He danced without theatrical pretence, Not like a ballet-master in the van Of his drill'd nymphs, but like a gentleman.
Chaste were his steps, each kept within due bound, And elegance was sprinkled o'er his figure; Like swift Camilla, he scarce skimm'd the ground, And rather held in than put forth his vigour; And then he had an ear for music's sound, Which might defy a crotchet critic's rigour. Such classic pas--sans flaws--set off our hero, He glanced like a personified Bolero;
Or, like a flying Hour before Aurora, In Guido's famous fresco which alone Is worth a tour to Rome, although no more a Remnant were there of the old world's sole throne. The 'tout ensemble' of his movements wore a Grace of the soft ideal, seldom shown, And ne'er to be described; for to the dolour Of bards and prosers, words are void of colour.
No marvel then he was a favourite; A full -grown Cupid, very much admired; A little spoilt, but by no means so quite; At least he kept his vanity retired. Such was his tact, he could alike delight The chaste, and those who are not so much inspired. The Duchess of Fitz-Fulke, who loved 'tracasserie,' Began to treat him with some small 'agacerie.'
She was a fine and somewhat full-blown blonde, Desirable, distinguish'd, celebrated For several winters in the grand, grand monde. I'd rather not say what might be related Of her exploits, for this were ticklish ground; Besides there might be falsehood in what's stated: Her late performance had been a dead set At Lord Augustus Fitz-Plantagenet.
This noble personage began to look A little black upon this new flirtation; But such small licences must lovers brook, Mere freedoms of the female corporation. Woe to the man who ventures a rebuke! 'Twill but precipitate a situation Extremely disagreeable, but common To calculators when they count on woman.
The circle smiled, then whisper'd, and then sneer'd; The Misses bridled, and the matrons frown'd; Some hoped things might not turn out as they fear'd; Some would not deem such women could be found; Some ne'er believed one half of what they heard; Some look'd perplex'd, and others look'd profound; And several pitied with sincere regret Poor Lord Augustus Fitz-Plantagenet.
But what is odd, none ever named the duke, Who, one might think, was something in the affair; True, he was absent, and, 'twas rumour'd, took But small concern about the when, or where, Or what his consort did: if he could brook Her gaieties, none had a right to stare: Theirs was that best of unions, past all doubt, Which never meets, and therefore can't fall out.
But, oh! that I should ever pen so sad a line! Fired with an abstract love of virtue, she, My Dian of the Ephesians, Lady Adeline, Began to think the duchess' conduct free; Regretting much that she had chosen so bad a line, And waxing chiller in her courtesy, Look'd grave and pale to see her friend's fragility, For which most friends reserve their sensibility.
There's nought in this bad world like sympathy: 'Tis so becoming to the soul and face, Sets to soft music the harmonious sigh, And robes sweet friendship in a Brussels lace. Without a friend, what were humanity, To hunt our errors up with a good grace? Consoling us with - 'Would you had thought twice! Ah, if you had but follow'd my advice!'
O job! you had two friends: one's quite enough, Especially when we are ill at ease; They are but bad pilots when the weather's rough, Doctors less famous for their cures than fees. Let no man grumble when his friends fall off, As they will do like leaves at the first breeze: When your affairs come round, one way or t'other, Go to the coffee-house, and take another.
But this is not my maxim: had it been, Some heart-aches had been spared me: yet I care not-- I would not be a tortoise in his screen Of stubborn shell, which waves and weather wear not. 'Tis better on the whole to have felt and seen That which humanity may bear, or bear not: 'Twill teach discernment to the sensitive, And not to pour their ocean in a sieve.
Of all the horrid, hideous notes of woe, Sadder than owl-songs or the midnight blast, Is that portentous phrase, 'I told you so,' Utter'd by friends, those prophets of the past, Who, 'stead of saying what you now should do, Own they foresaw that you would fall at last, And solace your slight lapse 'gainst 'bonos mores,' With a long memorandum of old stories.
The Lady Adeline's serene severity Was not confined to feeling for her friend, Whose fame she rather doubted with posterity, Unless her habits should begin to mend: But Juan also shared in her austerity, But mix'd with pity, pure as e'er was penn'd: His inexperience moved her gentle ruth, And (as her junior by six weeks) his youth.
These forty days' advantage of her years-- And hers were those which can face calculation, Boldly referring to the list of peers And noble births, nor dread the enumeration-- Gave her a right to have maternal fears For a young gentleman's fit education, Though she was far from that leap year, whose leap, In female dates, strikes Time all of a heap.
This may be fix'd at somewhere before thirty-- Say seven-and-twenty; for I never knew The strictest in chronology and virtue Advance beyond, while they could pass for new. O Time! why dost not pause? Thy scythe, so dirty With rust, should surely cease to hack and hew. Reset it; shave more smoothly, also slower, If but to keep thy credit as a mower.
But Adeline was far from that ripe age, Whose ripeness is but bitter at the best: 'Twas rather her experience made her sage, For she had seen the world and stood its test, As I have said in--I forget what page; My Muse despises reference, as you have guess'd By this time;--but strike six from seven -and -twenty, And you will find her sum of years in plenty.
At sixteen she came out; presented, vaunted, She put all coronets into commotion: At seventeen, too, the world was still enchanted With the new Venus of their brilliant ocean: At eighteen, though below her feet still panted A hecatomb of suitors with devotion, She had consented to create again That Adam, call'd 'The happiest of men.'
Since then she had sparkled through three glowing winters, Admired, adored; but also so correct, That she had puzzled all the acutest hinters, Without the apparel of being circumspect: They could not even glean the slightest splinters From off the marble, which had no defect. She had also snatch'd a moment since her marriage To bear a son and heir - and one miscarriage.
Fondly the wheeling fire-flies flew around her, Those little glitterers of the London night; But none of these possess'd a sting to wound her - She was a pitch beyond a coxcomb's flight. Perhaps she wish'd an aspirant profounder; But whatsoe'er she wish'd, she acted right; And whether coldness, pride, or virtue dignify A woman, so she's good, what does it signify?
I hate a motive, like a lingering bottle Which with the landlord makes too long a stand, Leaving all-claretless the unmoisten'd throttle, Especially with politics on hand; I hate it, as I hate a drove of cattle, Who whirl the dust as simooms whirl the sand; I hate it, as I hate an argument, A laureate's ode, or servile peer's 'content.'
'Tis sad to hack into the roots of things, They are so much intertwisted with the earth; So that the branch a goodly verdure flings, I reck not if an acorn gave it birth. To trace all actions to their secret springs Would make indeed some melancholy mirth; But this is not at present my concern, And I refer you to wise Oxenstiern.
With the kind view of saving an eclat, Both to the duchess and diplomatist, The Lady Adeline, as soon's she saw That Juan was unlikely to resist (For foreigners don't know that a faux pas In England ranks quite on a different list From those of other lands unblest with juries, Whose verdict for such sin a certain cure is);-
The Lady Adeline resolved to take Such measures as she thought might best impede The farther progress of this sad mistake. She thought with some simplicity indeed; But innocence is bold even at the stake, And simple in the world, and doth not need Nor use those palisades by dames erected, Whose virtue lies in never being detected.
It was not that she fear'd the very worst: His Grace was an enduring, married man, And was not likely all at once to burst Into a scene, and swell the clients' clan Of Doctors' Commons: but she dreaded first The magic of her Grace's talisman, And next a quarrel (as he seem'd to fret) With Lord Augustus Fitz-Plantagenet.
Her Grace, too, pass'd for being an intrigante, And somewhat mechante in her amorous sphere; One of those pretty, precious plagues, which haunt A lover with caprices soft and dear, That like to make a quarrel, when they can't Find one, each day of the delightful year; Bewitching, torturing, as they freeze or glow, And - what is worst of all - won't let you go:
The sort of thing to turn a young man's head, Or make a Werter of him in the end. No wonder then a purer soul should dread This sort of chaste liaison for a friend; It were much better to be wed or dead, Than wear a heart a woman loves to rend. 'T is best to pause, and think, ere you rush on, If that a 'bonne fortune' be really 'bonne.'
And first, in the o'erflowing of her heart, Which really knew or thought it knew no guile, She call'd her husband now and then apart, And bade him counsel Juan. With a smile Lord Henry heard her plans of artless art To wean Don Juan from the siren's wile; And answer'd, like a statesman or a prophet, In such guise that she could make nothing of it.
Firstly, he said, 'he never interfered In any body's business but the king's:' Next, that 'he never judged from what appear'd, Without strong reason, of those sort of things:' Thirdly, that 'Juan had more brain than beard, And was not to be held in leading strings;' And fourthly, what need hardly be said twice, 'That good but rarely came from good advice.'
And, therefore, doubtless to approve the truth Of the last axiom, he advised his spouse To leave the parties to themselves, forsooth - At least as far as bienseance allows: That time would temper Juan's faults of youth; That young men rarely made monastic vows; That opposition only more attaches - But here a messenger brought in despatches:
And being of the council call'd 'the Privy,' Lord Henry walk'd into his cabinet, To furnish matter for some future Livy To tell how he reduced the nation's debt; And if their full contents I do not give ye, It is because I do not know them yet; But I shall add them in a brief appendix, To come between mine epic and its index.
But ere he went, he added a slight hint, Another gentle common-place or two, Such as are coin'd in conversation's mint, And pass, for want of better, though not new: Then broke his packet, to see what was in 't, And having casually glanced it through, Retired; and, as went out, calmly kiss'd her, Less like a young wife than an aged sister.
He was a cold, good, honourable man, Proud of his birth, and proud of every thing; A goodly spirit for a state divan, A figure fit to walk before a king; Tall, stately, form'd to lead the courtly van On birthdays, glorious with a star and string; The very model of a chamberlain-- And such I mean to make him when I reign.
But there was something wanting on the whole-- I don't know what, and therefore cannot tell-- Which pretty women--the sweet souls!--call soul. Certes it was not body; he was well Proportion'd, as a poplar or a pole, A handsome man, that human miracle; And in each circumstance of love or war Had still preserved his perpendicular.
Still there was something wanting, as I've said - That undefinable 'Je ne scais quoi,' Which, for what I know, may of yore have led To Homer's Iliad, since it drew to Troy The Greek Eve, Helen, from the Spartan's bed; Though on the whole, no doubt, the Dardan boy Was much inferior to King Menelaus:- But thus it is some women will betray us.
There is an awkward thing which much perplexes, Unless like wise Tiresias we had proved By turns the difference of the several sexes; Neither can show quite how they would be loved. The sensual for a short time but connects us, The sentimental boasts to be unmoved; But both together form a kind of centaur, Upon whose back 'tis better not to venture.
A something all-sufficient for the heart Is that for which the sex are always seeking: But how to fill up that same vacant part? There lies the rub--and this they are but weak in. Frail mariners afloat without a chart, They run before the wind through high seas breaking; And when they have made the shore through every shock, 'Tis odd, or odds, it may turn out a rock.
There is a flower call'd 'Love in Idleness,' For which see Shakspeare's everblooming garden;- I will not make his great description less, And beg his British godship's humble pardon, If in my extremity of rhyme's distress, I touch a single leaf where he is warden;- But though the flower is different, with the French Or Swiss Rousseau, cry 'Voila la Pervenche!'
Eureka! I have found it! What I mean To say is, not that love is idleness, But that in love such idleness has been An accessory, as I have cause to guess. Hard labour's an indifferent go-between; Your men of business are not apt to express Much passion, since the merchant-ship, the Argo, Convey'd Medea as her supercargo.
'Beatus ille procul!' from 'negotiis,' Saith Horace; the great little poet's wrong; His other maxim, 'Noscitur a sociis,' Is much more to the purpose of his song; Though even that were sometimes too ferocious, Unless good company be kept too long; But, in his teeth, whate'er their state or station, Thrice happy they who have an occupation!
Adam exchanged his Paradise for ploughing, Eve made up millinery with fig leaves - The earliest knowledge from the tree so knowing, As far as I know, that the church receives: And since that time it need not cost much showing, That many of the ills o'er which man grieves, And still more women, spring from not employing Some hours to make the remnant worth enjoying.
And hence high life is oft a dreary void, A rack of pleasures, where we must invent A something wherewithal to be annoy'd. Bards may sing what they please about Content; Contented, when translated, means but cloy'd; And hence arise the woes of sentiment, Blue devils, and blue -stockings, and romances Reduced to practice, and perform'd like dances.
I do declare, upon an affidavit, Romances I ne'er read like those I have seen; Nor, if unto the world I ever gave it, Would some believe that such a tale had been: But such intent I never had, nor have it; Some truths are better kept behind a screen, Especially when they would look like lies; I therefore deal in generalities.
'An oyster may be cross'd in love,'--and why? Because he mopeth idly in his shell, And heaves a lonely subterraqueous sigh, Much as a monk may do within his cell: And a-propos of monks, their piety With sloth hath found it difficult to dwell; Those vegetables of the Catholic creed Are apt exceedingly to run to seed.
O Wilberforce! thou man of black renown, Whose merit none enough can sing or say, Thou hast struck one immense Colossus down, Thou moral Washington of Africa! But there's another little thing, I own, Which you should perpetrate some summer's day, And set the other halt of earth to rights; You have freed the blacks - now pray shut up the whites.
Shut up the bald-coot bully Alexander! Ship off the Holy Three to Senegal; Teach them that 'sauce for goose is sauce for gander,' And ask them how they like to be in thrall? Shut up each high heroic salamander, Who eats fire gratis (since the pay's but small); Shut up - no, not the King, but the Pavilion, Or else 'twill cost us all another million.
Shut up the world at large, let Bedlam out; And you will be perhaps surprised to find All things pursue exactly the same route, As now with those of soi -disant sound mind. This I could prove beyond a single doubt, Were there a jot of sense among mankind; But till that point d'appui is found, alas! Like Archimedes, I leave earth as 'twas.
Our gentle Adeline had one defect-- Her heart was vacant, though a splendid mansion; Her conduct had been perfectly correct, As she had seen nought claiming its expansion. A wavering spirit may be easier wreck'd, Because 'tis frailer, doubtless, than a stanch one; But when the latter works its own undoing, Its inner crash is like an earthquake's ruin.
She loved her lord, or thought so; but that love Cost her an effort, which is a sad toil, The stone of Sisyphus, if once we move Our feelings 'gainst the nature of the soil. She had nothing to complain of, or reprove, No bickerings, no connubial turmoil: Their union was a model to behold, Serene and noble,--conjugal, but cold.
There was no great disparity of years, Though much in temper; but they never clash'd: They moved like stars united in their spheres, Or like the Rhone by Leman's waters wash'd, Where mingled and yet separate appears The river from the lake, all bluely dash'd Through the serene and placid glassy deep, Which fain would lull its river-child to sleep.
Now when she once had ta'en an interest In any thing, however she might flatter Herself that her intentions were the best, Intense intentions are a dangerous matter: Impressions were much stronger than she guess'd, And gather'd as they run like growing water Upon her mind; the more so, as her breast Was not at first too readily impress'd.
But when it was, she had that lurking demon Of double nature, and thus doubly named - Firmness yclept in heroes, kings, and seamen, That is, when they succeed; but greatly blamed As obstinacy, both in men and women, Whene'er their triumph pales, or star is tamed:- And 'twill perplex the casuist in morality To fix the due bounds of this dangerous quality.
Had Buonaparte won at Waterloo, It had been firmness; now 'tis pertinacity: Must the event decide between the two? I leave it to your people of sagacity To draw the line between the false and true, If such can e'er be drawn by man's capacity: My business is with Lady Adeline, Who in her way too was a heroine.
She knew not her own heart; then how should I? I think not she was then in love with Juan: If so, she would have had the strength to fly The wild sensation, unto her a new one: She merely felt a common sympathy (I will not say it was a false or true one) In him, because she thought he was in danger,- Her husband's friend, her own, young, and a stranger,
She was, or thought she was, his friend - and this Without the farce of friendship, or romance Of Platonism, which leads so oft amiss Ladies who have studied friendship but in France, Or Germany, where people purely kiss. To thus much Adeline would not advance; But of such friendship as man's may to man be She was as capable as woman can be.
No doubt the secret influence of the sex Will there, as also in the ties of blood, An innocent predominance annex, And tune the concord to a finer mood. If free from passion, which all friendship checks, And your true feelings fully understood, No friend like to a woman earth discovers, So that you have not been nor will be lovers.
Love bears within its breast the very germ Of change; and how should this be otherwise? That violent things more quickly find a term Is shown through nature's whole analogies; And how should the most fierce of all be firm? Would you have endless lightning in the skies? Methinks Love's very title says enough: How should 'the tender passion' e'er be tough?
Alas! by all experience, seldom yet (I merely quote what I have heard from many) Had lovers not some reason to regret The passion which made Solomon a zany. I've also seen some wives (not to forget The marriage state, the best or worst of any) Who were the very paragons of wives, Yet made the misery of at least two lives.
I've also seen some female friends ('tis odd, But true--as, if expedient, I could prove) That faithful were through thick and thin, abroad, At home, far more than ever yet was Love-- Who did not quit me when Oppression trod Upon me; whom no scandal could remove; Who fought, and fight, in absence, too, my battles, Despite the snake Society's loud rattles.
Whether Don Juan and chaste Adeline Grew friends in this or any other sense, Will be discuss'd hereafter, I opine: At present I am glad of a pretence To leave them hovering, as the effect is fine, And keeps the atrocious reader in suspense; The surest way for ladies and for books To bait their tender, or their tenter, hooks.
Whether they rode, or walk'd, or studied Spanish To read Don Quixote in the original, A pleasure before which all others vanish; Whether their talk was of the kind call'd 'small,' Or serious, are the topics I must banish To the next Canto; where perhaps I shall Say something to the purpose, and display Considerable talent in my way.
Above all, I beg all men to forbear Anticipating aught about the matter: They'll only make mistakes about the fair, And Juan too, especially the latter. And I shall take a much more serious air Than I have yet done, in this epic satire. It is not clear that Adeline and Juan Will fall; but if they do, 'twill be their ruin.
But great things spring from little:- Would you think, That in our youth, as dangerous a passion As e'er brought man and woman to the brink Of ruin, rose from such a slight occasion, As few would ever dream could form the link Of such a sentimental situation? You'll never guess, I 'll bet you millions, milliards-- It all sprung from a harmless game at billiards.
'Tis strange,--but true; for truth is always strange; Stranger than fiction; if it could be told, How much would novels gain by the exchange! How differently the world would men behold! How oft would vice and virtue places change! The new world would be nothing to the old, If some Columbus of the moral seas Would show mankind their souls' antipodes.
What 'antres vast and deserts idle' then Would be discover'd in the human soul! What icebergs in the hearts of mighty men, With self-love in the centre as their pole! What Anthropophagi are nine of ten Of those who hold the kingdoms in control Were things but only call'd by their right name, Caesar himself would be ashamed of fame.

About the author

George Gordon Byron photo
George Gordon Byron
297 works

About the poet

George Gordon Byron, 6th Baron Byron, later George Gordon Noel, 6th Baron Byron, FRS , commonly known simply as Lord Byron, was a British poet and a leading figure in the Romantic movement. Among Byron's best-known works are the brief poems She Walks in Beauty, When We Two Parted, and So, we'll go no more a roving, in addition to the narrative poems Childe Harold's Pilgrimage and Don Juan. He is regarded as one of the greatest British poets and remains widely read and influential.

Byron was celebrated in life for aristocratic excesses including huge debts, numerous love affairs, rumours of a scandalous incestuous liaison with his half-sister, and self-imposed exile. He was famously described by Lady Caroline Lamb as "mad, bad and dangerous to know". It has been speculated that he suffered from bipolar I disorder, or manic depression. He travelled to fight against the Ottoman Empire in the Greek War of Independence, for which Greeks revere him as a national hero. He died at 36 years old from a fever contracted while in Missolonghi in Greece.


Byron's names were changed throughout his life. He was the son of Captain John "Mad Jack" Byron and his second wife, the former Catherine Gordon (d. 1811), a descendant of Cardinal Beaton and heiress of the Gight estate in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. Byron's father had previously seduced the married Marchioness of Caermarthen and, after she divorced her husband the Earl, had married her. His treatment of her was described as "brutal and vicious", and she died after having given birth to two daughters, only one of which survived: Byron's half-sister, Augusta.

Byron's paternal grandparents were Vice-Admiral The Hon. John "Foulweather Jack" Byron and Sophia Trevanion. Vice Admiral John Byron had circumnavigated the globe, and was the younger brother of the 5th Baron Byron, known as "the Wicked Lord".

He was christened "George Gordon Byron" at St Marylebone Parish Church after his maternal grandfather, George Gordon of Gight, a descendant of James I of Scotland, who had committed suicide in 1779.

In order to claim his second wife's estate in Scotland, Byron's father had taken the additional surname "Gordon", becoming "John Byron Gordon", and he was occasionally styled "John Byron Gordon of Gight". Byron himself used this surname for a time and was registered at school in Aberdeen as "George Byron Gordon". At the age of 10, he inherited the English Barony of Byron of Rochdale, becoming "Lord Byron", and eventually dropped the double surname (though after this point his surname was secondary to his peerage).

When Byron's mother-in-law, Judith Noel died in 1822, her will required that he change his surname to "Noel" in order to inherit half her estate, and so he obtained a Royal Warrant allowing him to "take and use the surname of Noel only". The Royal Warrant also allowed him to "subscribe the said surname of Noel before all titles of honour", and from that point he signed himself "Noel Byron" (the usual signature of a peer being merely the peerage, in this case simply "Byron"). It is speculated that this was so that his initals would read "N.B." mimicking those of his hero, Napoleon Bonaparte. He was also sometimes referred to as "Lord Noel Byron", as if "Noel" were part of his title, and likewise his wife was sometimes called "Lady Noel Byron". Lady Byron eventually succeeded to the Barony of Wentworth, becoming "Lady Wentworth".

Early Life

John Byron married his second wife for the same reason he married his first: her fortune. 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. In a move to avoid his creditors, Catherine accompanied her profligate husband to France in 1786, but returned to England at the end of 1787 in order to give birth to her son on English soil. He was born on 22 January in lodgings on Holles Street in London.

Catherine moved back to Aberdeenshire in 1790, where Byron spent his childhood. His father soon joined them in their lodgings in Queen Street, but the couple quickly separated. Catherine regularly experienced mood swings and bouts of melancholy, which could be partly explained by her husband's continuing to appear in order to borrow money from her. As a result, she fell even further into debt to support his demands. It was one of these importunate loans that allowed him to travel to Valenciennes, France, where he died in 1791.

When Byron's great-uncle, the "wicked" Lord Byron, died on 21 May 1798, the 10-year-old boy became the 6th Baron Byron of Rochdale and inherited the ancestral home, Newstead Abbey in Nottinghamshire. His mother proudly took him to England, but the Abbey was in an embarrassing state of disrepair and rather than live there, his mother decided to rent to Lord Grey de Ruthyn, among others, during his adolescence.

Described as "a woman without judgment or self-command", Catherine either spoiled and indulged her son or aggravated him with her capricious stubbornness. Her drinking disgusted him, and he often mocked her for being short and corpulent, which made it difficult for her to catch him to discipline him. She once retaliated and, in a fit of temper, referred to him as "a lame brat".

Birth Defect

From birth, Byron suffered from a deformity of his right foot. Generally referred to as a "clubfoot", some modern medical experts maintain that it was a consequence of infantile paralysis (poliomyelitis), and others that it was a dysplasia, a failure of the bones to form properly. Whatever the cause, he was afflicted with a limp that caused him lifelong psychological and physical misery, aggravated by painful and pointless "medical treatment" in his childhood and the nagging suspicion that with proper care it might have been cured.He was extremely self-conscious about this from a young age, nicknaming himself le diable boiteux (French for "the limping devil", after the nickname given to Asmodeus by Alain-René Lesage in his 1707 novel of the same name). Although he often wore specially made shoes in an attempt to hide the deformed foot, he refused to wear any type of brace that might improve the limp.

Scottish novelist John Galt felt his oversensitivity to the "innocent fault in his foot was unmanly and excessive" because the limp was "not greatly conspicuous." He first met Byron on a voyage to Sardinia and didn't realise he had any deficiency for several days, and still could not tell at first if the lameness was a temporary injury or not. But by the time he met Byron he was an adult and had worked to develop "a mode of walking across a room by which it was scarcely at all perceptible". The motion of the ship at sea may also have helped to create a favourable first impression and hide any deficiencies in his gait, but Galt's biography is also described as being "rather well-meant than well-written", so Galt may be guilty of minimising a defect that was actually still noticeable.

'Anticipated life' and the poet's psyche

"I am such a strange mélangé of good and evil that it would be difficult to describe me."

As a boy, his character is described as a "mixture of affectionate sweetness and playfulness, by which it was impossible not to be attached", although he also exhibited "silent rages, moody sullenness and revenge" with a precocious bent for attachment and obsession. He described his first intense feelings at age eight for Mary Duff, his distant cousin:

"How very odd that I should have been so devotedly fond of that girl, at an age when I could neither feel passion, nor know the meaning of the word and the effect! My mother used always to rally me about this childish amour, and at last, many years after, when I was sixteen, she told me one day, 'O Byron, I have had a letter from Edinburgh, and your old sweetheart, Mary Duff, is married to Mr C***.' And what was my answer? I really cannot explain or account for my feelings at that moment, but they nearly threw me into convulsions...How the deuce did all this occur so early? Where could it originate? I certainly had no sexual ideas for years afterwards; and yet my misery, my love for that girl were so violent, that I sometimes doubt if I have ever been really attached since. Be that as it may, hearing of her marriage several years after was like a thunder-stroke – it nearly choked me—to the horror of my mother and the astonishment and almost incredulity of every body. And it is a phenomenon in my existence (for I was not eight years old) which has puzzled, and will puzzle me to the latest hour of it; and lately, I know not why, the recollection (not the attachment) has recurred as forcibly as ever...But, the more I reflect, the more I am bewildered to assign any cause for this precocity of affection."

Byron also became attached to Margaret Parker, another distant cousin,. While his recollection of his love for Mary Duff is that he was ignorant of adult sexuality during this time, and was bewildered as to the source of the intensity of his feelings, he would later confess that:
"My passions were developed very early – so early, that few would believe me – if I were to state the period – and the facts which accompanied it. Perhaps this was one of the reasons that caused the anticipated melancholy of my thoughts – having anticipated life."
This is the only reference Byron himself makes to the event, and he is ambiguous as to how old he was when it occurred. After his death, his lawyer wrote to a mutual friend telling him a "singular fact" about Byron's life which was "scarcely fit for narration". But he disclosed it nonetheless, thinking it might explain Byron's sexual "propensities":

"When nine years old at his mother's house a [F]ree Scotch girl [May, sometimes called Mary, Gray, one of his first caretakers] used to come to bed to him and play tricks with his person."

Gray later used these sexual intimacies as leverage to ensure his silence if he were tempted to disclose the "low company" she kept during drinking binges. She was later dismissed, supposedly for beating Byron when he was 11.

A few years later, while he was still a child, Lord Grey (unrelated to May Gray), a suitor of his mother's, also made sexual advances to him. Byron's personality has been characterised as exceptionally proud and sensitive, especially when it came to his deformity. And although Byron was a very self-centered individual, it is probable that like most children, he would have been deeply disturbed by these sexual advances. His extreme reaction to seeing his mother flirting outrageously with Lord Grey after the incident suggests this; he did not tell her of Grey's conduct toward him, he simply refused to speak to him again and ignored his mother's commands to be reconciled.

Byron's proclivity for, and experimentation in, bisexuality may be a result of his being sexually imprinted by both genders at an early age. Leslie Marchand, one of Byron's biographers, controversially theorises that Lord Grey's advances prompted Byron's later sexual liaisons with young men at Harrow and Cambridge. Another biographer, Fiona MacCarthy, has posited that Byron's true sexual yearnings were for adolescent males.

While he desired to be seen as sophisticated, uncaring and invincible, he actually cared deeply what people thought of him. He believed his tendency to melancholy and depression was inherited, and he wrote in 1821, "I am not sure that long life is desirable for one of my temper & constitutional depression of Spirits." He later earned a reputation as being extravagant, courageous, unconventional, eccentric, flamboyant and controversial.He was independent and given to extremes of temper; on at least one trip, his travelling companions were so puzzled by his mood swings they thought he was mentally ill.

In spite of these difficulties and eccentricties, Byron was noted for the extreme loyalty he inspired among his friends.

Education and Early Loves

Byron received his early formal education at Aberdeen Grammar School, and in August 1799, entered the school of Dr. William Glennie, in Dulwich. Placed under the care of a Dr. Bailey, he was encouraged to exercise in moderation, but could not restrain himself from "violent" bouts in an attempt to overcompensate for his deformed foot. His mother interfered with his studies, often withdrawing him from school, with the result that he lacked discipline and his classical studies were neglected.

In 1801 he was sent to Harrow, where he remained until July 1805. An undistinguished student and an unskilled cricketeer, he did represent the school during the very first Eton v Harrow cricket match at Lord's in 1805.

His lack of moderation was not just restricted to physical exercise. 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. His mother wrote, "He has no indisposition that I know of but love, desperate love, the worst of all maladies in my opinion. In short, the boy is distractedly in love with Miss Chaworth." In Byron's later memoirs, "Mary Chaworth is portrayed as the first object of his adult sexual feelings."

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 (for I was always violent)." The most enduring of those was with John FitzGibbon, 2nd Earl of Clare — four years Byron's junior — whom he was to meet unexpectedly many years later in Italy (1821). His nostalgic poems about his Harrow friendships, Childish Recollections (1806), express a prescient "consciousness of sexual differences that may in the end make England untenable to him".

"Ah! Sure some stronger impulse vibrates here,
Which whispers friendship will be doubly dear
To one, who thus for kindred hearts must roam,
And seek abroad, the love denied at home."

The following autumn he attended Trinity College, Cambridge., where he met and formed a close friendship with the younger John Edleston. About his "protégé" he wrote, "He has been my almost constant associate since October, 1805, when I entered Trinity College. His voice first attracted my attention, his countenance fixed it, and his manners attached me to him for ever." In his memory Byron composed Thyrza, a series of elegies.

In later years he described the affair as "a violent, though pure love and passion." This statement, however, needs to be read in the context of hardening public attitudes toward homosexuality in England, and the severe sanctions (including public hanging) against convicted or even suspected offenders. The liaison, on the other hand, may well have been 'pure' out of respect for Edleston's innocence, in contrast to the (probably) more sexually overt relations experienced at Harrow School.Also while at Cambridge he formed lifelong friendships with men such as John Cam Hobhouse and Francis Hodgson, a Fellow at King's College, with whom he corresponded on literary and other matters until the end of his life.

Physical Appearance

Byron's adult height was about 5 feet 11 inches (1.80 m), his weight fluctuating between 9.5 stone (133 lb; 60 kg) and 14 stone (200 lb; 89 kg). He was renowned for his personal beauty, which he enhanced by wearing curl-papers in his hair at night. He was athletic, being a competent boxer and horse-rider and an excellent swimmer.

Byron and other writers, such as his friend Hobhouse, described his eating habits in detail. At the time he entered Cambridge, he went on a strict diet to control his weight. He also exercised a great deal, and at that time wore a great number of clothes to cause himself to perspire. For most of his life he was a vegetarian, and often lived for days on dry biscuits and white wine. Occasionally he would eat large helpings of meat and desserts, after which he would purge himself. Although he is described by Galt and others as having a predilection for "violent" exercise, Hobhouse makes the excuse that the pain in his deformed foot made physical activity difficult, and his weight problem was the result.

Early Career

While not at school or college, Byron lived with his mother at Burgage Manor in Southwell, Nottinghamshire, in some antagonism. While there, he cultivated friendships with Elizabeth Pigot and her brother, John, with whom he staged two plays for the entertainment of the community.

During this time, with the help of Elizabeth Pigot, who copied many of his rough drafts, he was encouraged to write his first volumes of poetry. Fugitive Pieces was printed by Ridge of Newark, which contained poems written when Byron was only 14. However, it was promptly recalled and burned on the advice of his friend, the Reverend Thomas Beecher, on account of its more amorous verses, particularly the poem To Mary.

Hours of Idleness, which collected many of the previous poems, along with more recent compositions, was the culminating book. The savage, anonymous criticism this received (now known to be the work of Henry Peter Brougham) in the Edinburgh Review prompted his first major satire, English Bards and Scotch Reviewers (1809). It was put into the hands of his relation R.C. Dallas requesting him to "...get it published without his name" Dallas gives a large series of changes and alterations, as well as the reasoning for some of them. He also states that Byron had originally intended to prefix an argument to this poem, and Dallas quotes it. Although the work was published anonymously, by April, Dallas is writing that "you are already pretty generally known to be the author." The work so upset some of his critics they challenged Byron to a duel; over time, in subsequent editions, it became a mark of prestige to be the target of Byron's pen.
After his return from his travels, he again entrusted Dallas as his literary agent to publish his poem Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, which Byron thought of little account. The first two cantos of Childe Harold's Pilgrimage were published in 1812, and were received with acclaim. In his own words, "I awoke one morning and found myself famous". He followed up his success with the poem's last two cantos, as well as four equally celebrated Oriental Tales, The Giaour, The Bride of Abydos, The Corsair, and Lara, A Tale. About the same time, he began his intimacy with his future biographer, Thomas Moore.

Personal life

First travels to the East

Byron racked up numerous debts as a young man, due to what his mother termed a "reckless disregard for money". She lived at Newstead during this time, in fear of her son's creditors.

He had planned to spend early 1808 cruising with his cousin George Bettesworth, who was captain of the 32-gun frigate HMS Tartar. Bettesworth's unfortunate death at the Battle of Alvøen in May 1808 made that impossible.

From 1809 to 1811, Byron went on the Grand Tour, then customary for a young nobleman. The Napoleonic Wars forced him to avoid most of Europe, and he instead turned to the Mediterranean. Correspondence among his circle of Cambridge friends also suggests that a key motive was the hope of homosexual experience, and other theories saying that he was worried about a possible dalliance with the married Mary Chaworth, his former love (the subject of his poem from this time, "To a Lady: On Being Asked My Reason for Quitting England in the Spring"). Attraction to the Levant was probably a motive in itself; he had read about the Ottoman and Persian lands as a child, was attracted to Islam (especially Sufi mysticism), and later wrote, “With these countries, and events connected with them, all my really poetical feelings begin and end." He travelled from England over Portugal, Spain and the Mediterranean to Albania and spent time at the court of Ali Pasha of Ioannina, and in Athens. For most of the trip, he had a travelling companion in his friend John Cam Hobhouse. Many of these letters are referred to with details in Recollections of the Life of Lord Byron.

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. Byron particularly enjoyed his stay in Sintra that is described in Childe Harold's Pilgrimage as "glorious Eden". From Lisbon he travelled overland to Seville, Jerez de la Frontera, Cadiz, Gibraltar and from there by sea on to Malta and Greece.

While in Athens, Byron met Nicolò Giraud, who became quite close and taught him Italian. It was also presumed that the two had an intimate relationship involving a sexual affair. Byron sent Giraud to school at a monastery in Malta and bequeathed him a sizeable sum of seven thousand pounds sterling. The will, however, was later cancelled. In 1810 in Athens Byron wrote Maid of Athens, ere we part for a 12-year-old girl, Teresa Makri [1798–1875], and reportedly offered £500 for her. The offer was not accepted.

Byron made his way to Smyrna where he and Hobhouse cadged a ride to Constantinople on HMS Salsette. While Salsette was anchored awaiting Ottoman permission to dock at the city, on 3 May 1810 Byron and Lieutenant Ekenhead, of Salsette's marines, swam the Hellespont. Byron commemorated this feat in the second canto of Don Juan. He returned to England from Malta in June 1813 aboard HMS Volage.

Affairs and Scandals

In 1812, Byron embarked on a well-publicised affair with the married Lady Caroline Lamb that shocked the British public. Byron eventually broke off the relationship and moved swiftly on to others (such as that with Lady Oxford), but Lamb never entirely recovered, pursuing him even after he tired of her. She was emotionally disturbed, and lost so much weight that Byron cruelly commented to her mother-in-law, his friend Lady Melbourne, that he was "haunted by a skeleton". She began to call on him at home, sometimes dressed in disguise as a page boy, at a time when such an act could ruin both of them socially. One day, during such a visit, she wrote on a book at his desk, "Remember me!" As a retort, Byron wrote a poem entitled Remember Thee! Remember Thee! which concludes with the line "Thou false to him, thou fiend to me".

As a child, Byron had seen little of his half-sister Augusta Leigh; in adulthood, he formed a close relationship with her that has been interpreted by some as incestuous, and by others as innocent. Augusta (who was married) gave birth on 15 April 1814 to her third daughter, Elizabeth Medora Leigh.

Eventually Byron began to court Lady Caroline's cousin Anne Isabella Milbanke ("Annabella"), who refused his first proposal of marriage but later accepted him. Milbanke was a highly moral woman, intelligent and mathematically gifted; she was also an heiress. They married at Seaham Hall, County Durham, on 2 January 1815. The marriage proved unhappy. He treated her poorly. They had a daughter (Augusta Ada). On 16 January 1816, Lady Byron left him, taking Ada with her. On 21 April, Byron signed the Deed of Separation. Rumours of marital violence, adultery with actresses, incest with Augusta Leigh, and sodomy were circulated, assisted by a jealous Lady Caroline. In a letter, Augusta quoted him as saying: "Even to have such a thing said is utter destruction and ruin to a man from which he can never recover."

Later Years

After this break-up of his domestic life, Byron again left England, and, as it turned out, it was forever. He passed through Belgium and continued up the Rhine River. In the summer of 1816 he settled at the Villa Diodati by Lake Geneva, Switzerland, with his personal physician, the young, brilliant, and handsome John William Polidori. There Byron befriended the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, and Shelley's future wife Mary Godwin. He was also joined by Mary's stepsister, Claire Clairmont, with whom he had had an affair in London.
Kept indoors at the Villa Diodati by the "incessant rain" of "that wet, ungenial summer" over three days in June, the five turned to reading fantastical stories, including Fantasmagoriana, and then devising their own tales. Mary Shelley produced what would become Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus, and Polidori was inspired by a fragmentary story of Byron's, "Fragment of a Novel", to produce The Vampyre, the progenitor of the romantic vampire genre. Byron's story fragment was published as a postscript to Mazeppa; he also wrote the third canto of Childe Harold. 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 soon replaced by 22-year-old Margarita Cogni; both women were married. Cogni could not read or write, and she left her husband to move into Byron's Venice house. Their fighting often caused Byron to spend the night in his gondola; when he asked her to leave the house, she threw herself into the Venetian canal.

In 1817, he journeyed to Rome. On returning to Venice, he wrote the fourth canto of Childe Harold. About the same time, he sold Newstead and published Manfred, Cain and The Deformed Transformed. The first five cantos of Don Juan were written between 1818 and 1820, during which period he made the acquaintance of the young Countess Guiccioli, who found her first love in Byron, who in turn asked her to elope with him. It was about this time that he received a visit from Thomas Moore, to whom he confided his autobiography or "life and adventures", which Moore, Hobhouse, and Byron's publisher, John Murray, burned in 1824, a month after Byron's death.


Byron had a child, The Hon. Augusta Ada Byron ("Ada", later Countess of Lovelace), in 1815 with Annabella Byron, Lady Byron (née Anne Isabella Milbanke, or "Annabella"), later Lady Wentworth. Ada Lovelace, notable in her own right, collaborated with Charles Babbage on the analytical engine, a predecessor to modern computers. She is recognised as the world's first programmer.

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

Allegra is not entitled to the style "The Hon." as is usually given to the daughter of barons, since she was illegitimate. Born in Bath in 1817, Allegra lived with Byron for a few months in Venice; he refused to allow an Englishwoman caring for the girl to adopt her, and objected to her being raised in the Shelleys' household. He wished for her to be brought up Catholic and not marry an Englishman. 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. However, the girl died aged five of a fever in Bagna Cavallo, Italy while Byron was in Pisa; he was deeply upset by the news. He 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. At one time he himself had wanted to be buried at Harrow. Byron was indifferent towards Allegra's mother, Claire Clairmont.

Although it cannot be proved, some attest that Augusta Leigh's child, Elizabeth Medora Leigh, was fathered by Byron.

It is thought that Lord Byron had a son by a maid he employed at Newstead named Lucy. A letter of his to John Hanson from Newstead Abbey, dated 17 January 1809, refers to the situation: "You will discharge my Cook, & Laundry Maid, the other two I shall retain to take care of the house, more especially as the youngest is pregnant (I need not tell you by whom) and I cannot have the girl on the parish." The letter may be found in many editions of Byron's letters, such as Marchand's 1982 Byron's Letters and Journals. The poem "To My Son" may be about this child; however, the dating gives difficulties; some editors attribute the poem to a date two years earlier than the letter.

Political Career

Byron first took his seat in the House of Lords 13 Mar 1809, but left London on 11 Jun 1809 for the Continent A strong advocate of social reform, he received particular praise as one of the few Parliamentary defenders of the Luddites: specifically, he was against a death penalty for Luddite "frame breakers" in Nottinghamshire, who destroyed textile machines that were putting them out of work. His first speech before the Lords was loaded with sarcastic references to the "benefits" of automation, which he saw as producing inferior material as well as putting people out of work. He said later that he "spoke very violent sentences with a sort of modest impudence", and thought he came across as "a bit theatrical". The full text of the speech, which he had previously written out, were presented to Dallas in manuscript form and he quotes it in his work. In another Parliamentary speech he expressed opposition to the established religion because it was unfair to people of other faiths. These experiences inspired Byron to write political poems such as Song for the Luddites (1816) and The Landlords' Interest, Canto XIV of The Age of Bronze. Examples of poems in which he attacked his political opponents include Wellington: The Best of the Cut-Throats (1819); and The Intellectual Eunuch Castlereagh (1818).

Life Abroad

Reasons for His Departure

Ultimately, Byron resolved to escape the censure of British society (due to allegations of sodomy and incest) by living abroad, thereby freeing himself of the need to conceal his sexual interests (MacCarthy pp. 86, 314). Byron left England in 1816 and did not return for the last eight years of his life, even to bury his daughter.

The Armenians in Venice

In 1816, Byron visited Saint Lazarus Island in Venice, where he acquainted himself with Armenian culture with the help of the abbots belonging to the Mechitarist Order. With the help of Father H. Avgerian, he learned the Armenian language, and attended many seminars about language and history. He wrote English Grammar and Armenian (Qerakanutyun angghiakan yev hayeren) in 1817, and Armenian Grammar and English (Qerakanutyun hayeren yev angghiakan) in 1819, where he included quotations from classical and modern Armenian. Byron also participated in the compilation of the English Armenian dictionary (Barraran angghieren yev hayeren, 1821) and wrote the preface in which he explained the relationship of the Armenians with and the oppression of the Turkish "pashas" and the Persian satraps, and their struggle of liberation. His two main translations are the Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians, two chapters of Movses Khorenatsi's History of Armenia and sections of Nerses of Lambron's Orations. His 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. He may be credited with the birth of Armenology and its propagation. His profound lyricism and ideological courage has inspired many Armenian poets, the likes of Ghevond Alishan, Smbat Shahaziz, Hovhannes Tumanyan, Ruben Vorberian and others.

In Italy and Greece

The Byron's cave in Portovenere, Italy, called in his honour, because in this place that drew inspiration and meditation for his literary works
From 1821 to 1822, he finished Cantos 6–12 of Don Juan at Pisa, and in the same year he joined with Leigh Hunt and Percy Bysshe Shelley in starting a short-lived newspaper, The Liberal, in the first number of which appeared The Vision of Judgment. For the first time since his arrival in Italy, Byron found himself tempted to give dinner parties; his guests included the Shelleys, Edward Ellerker Williams, Thomas Medwin, John Taaffe, and Edward John Trelawney; and "never," as Shelley said, "did he display himself to more advantage than on these occasions; being at once polite and cordial, full of social hilarity and the most perfect good humour; never diverging into ungraceful merriment, and yet keeping up the spirit of liveliness throughout the evening."

Shelley and Williams rented a house on the coast and had a schooner built. Byron decided to have his own yacht, and engaged Trelawny’s friend, Captain Daniel Roberts (Royal Navy officer), to design and construct the boat. Named the Bolivar, it was later sold to Charles John Gardiner, 1st Earl of Blessington, and Marguerite, Countess of Blessington when Byron left for Greece in 1823. Byron attended the funeral of Shelley, which was orchestrated by Trelawny after Williams and Shelley drowned in a boating accident on 8 July 1822. His last Italian home was Genoa, where he was still accompanied by the Countess Guiccioli, and the Blessingtons; providing the material for Lady Blessington’s work: Conversations with Lord Byron, an important text in the reception of Byron in the period immediately after his death.

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. With the assistance of his banker and Captain Roberts, Byron chartered the Brig Hercules to take him to Greece. On 16 July, Byron left Genoa arriving at Kefalonia in the Ionian Islands on 4 August. His voyage is covered in detail in Sailing with Byron from Genoa to Cephalonia. There is a mystical coincidence in Byron’s chartering the Hercules. The vessel was launched only a few miles south of Seaham Hall, where in 1815 Byron married Annabella Milbanke. Between 1815 and 1823 the vessel was in service between England and Canada. Suddenly in 1823, the ship’s Captain decided to sail to Genoa and offer the Hercules for charter.

After taking Byron to Greece, the ship returned to England, never again to venture into the Mediterranean. "The Hercules was age 37 when on 21 September 1852, her life ended when 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 age 37, when he died in Missolonghi." Byron spent £4000 of his own money to refit the Greek fleet, then sailed for Missolonghi in western Greece, arriving on 29 December, to join Alexandros Mavrokordatos, a Greek politician with military power. During this time, Byron pursued his Greek page, Lukas Chalandritsanos, but the affections went unrequited. When the famous Danish sculptor Thorvaldsen heard about Byron's heroics in Greece, he voluntarily resculpted his earlier bust of Byron in Greek marble.


Mavrokordatos and Byron planned to attack the Turkish-held fortress of Lepanto, at the mouth of the Gulf of Corinth. Byron employed a fire-master to prepare artillery and took part of the rebel army under his own command, despite his lack of military experience, but before the expedition could sail, on 15 February 1824, he fell ill, and the usual remedy of bloodletting weakened him further. He made a partial recovery, but in early April he caught a violent cold which therapeutic bleeding, insisted on by his doctors, aggravated. It is suspected this treatment, carried out with unsterilised medical instrumentation, may have caused him to develop sepsis. He developed a violent fever, and died on 19 April. His physician at the time, Dutch Julius van Millingen, was unable to prevent his death. It has been said that had Byron lived and gone on to defeat the Ottomans, he might have been declared King of Greece. However, contemporary scholars have found such an outcome unlikely.

Post mortem

Alfred, Lord Tennyson would later recall the shocked reaction in Britain when word was received of Byron's death. The Greeks mourned Lord Byron deeply, and he became a hero. The national poet of Greece, Dionysios Solomos, wrote a poem about the unexpected loss, named To the Death of Lord Byron. Βύρων ("Vyron"), the Greek form of "Byron", continues in popularity as a masculine name in Greece, and a suburb of Athens is called Vyronas in his honour.

Byron's body was embalmed, but the Greeks wanted some part of their hero to stay with them. According to some sources, his heart remained at Missolonghi. According to others, it was his lungs, which were placed in an urn that was later lost when the city was sacked. His other remains were sent to England for burial in Westminster Abbey, but the Abbey refused for reason of "questionable morality". Huge crowds viewed his body as he lay in state for two days in London. He is buried at the Church of St. Mary Magdalene in Hucknall, Nottinghamshire.

At her request, Ada Lovelace, the child he never knew, was buried next to him. In later years, the Abbey allowed a duplicate of a marble slab given by the King of Greece, which is laid directly above Byron's grave. Byron's friends raised the sum of 1,000 pounds to commission a statue of the writer; Thorvaldsen offered to sculpt it for that amount. However, for ten years after the statue was completed in 1834, most British institutions turned it down, and it remained in storage. The statue was refused by the British Museum, St. Paul's Cathedral, Westminster Abbey and the National Gallery. Trinity College, Cambridge, finally placed the statue of Byron in its library.
In 1969, 145 years after Byron's death, a memorial to him was finally placed in Westminster Abbey. The memorial had been lobbied for since 1907; The New York Times wrote, "People are beginning to ask whether this ignoring of Byron is not a thing of which England should be ashamed ... a bust or a tablet might be put in the Poets' Corner and England be relieved of ingratitude toward one of her really great sons."

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". This came as a shock to the English, particularly schoolchildren, who, Ripley said, raised funds of their own accord to provide the poet with a suitable memorial.

On a very central area of Athens, Greece, outside the National Garden, is a statue depicting Greece in the form of a woman crowning Byron. The statue was made by the French Henri-Michel Chapu and Alexandre Falguière.

Upon his death, the barony passed to Byron's cousin George Anson Byron, a career naval officer.

Poetic Works

Byron wrote prolifically. In 1832 his publisher, John Murray, released the complete works in 14 duodecimo volumes, including a life by Thomas Moore. Subsequent editions were released in 17 volumes, first published a year later, in 1833.

Although Byron falls chronologically into the period most commonly associated with Romantic poetry, much of his work looks back to the satiric tradition of Alexander Pope and John Dryden.

Don Juan

Byron's magnum opus, Don Juan, a poem spanning 17 cantos, ranks as one of the most important long poems published in England since John Milton's Paradise Lost. The masterpiece, often called the epic of its time, has roots deep in literary tradition and, although regarded by early Victorians as somewhat shocking, equally involves itself with its own contemporary world at all levels — social, political, literary and ideological.

Byron published the first two cantos anonymously in 1819 after disputes with his regular publisher over the shocking nature of the poetry; by this time, he had been a famous poet for seven years, and when he self-published the beginning cantos, they were well received in some quarters. It was then released volume by volume through his regular publishing house. By 1822, cautious acceptance by the public had turned to outrage, and Byron's publisher refused to continue to publish the works. In Canto III of Don Juan, Byron expresses his detestation for poets such as William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

Byronic hero

The figure of the Byronic hero pervades much of his work, and Byron himself is considered to epitomise many of the characteristics of this literary figure. Scholars have traced the literary history of the Byronic hero from John Milton, and many authors and artists of the Romantic movement show Byron's influence during the 19th century and beyond, including Charlotte and Emily Brontë. The Byronic hero presents an idealised, but flawed character whose attributes include: great talent; great passion; a distaste for society and social institutions; a lack of respect for rank and privilege (although possessing both); being thwarted in love by social constraint or death; rebellion; exile; an unsavory secret past; arrogance; overconfidence or lack of foresight; and, ultimately, a self-destructive manner. Finally, Stendahl's hero Julien Sorel in The Red and the Black seems to have been inspired by Don Juan. In Canto XI when Don Juan shoots the armed English robber, the robber falls to the ground and mistakes Don Juan for a "bloody Frenchman".

Parthenon marbles

Byron was a bitter opponent of Lord Elgin's removal of the Parthenon marbles from Greece, and "reacted with fury" when Elgin's agent gave him a tour of the Parthenon, during which he saw the missing friezes and metopes. He penned a poem, The Curse of Minerva, to denounce Elgin's actions.

He enjoyed adventure, especially relating to the sea.

The first recorded notable example of open water swimming took place on 3 May 1810 when Lord Byron swam from Europe to Asia across the Hellespont Strait. This is often seen as the birth of the sport and pastime and to commemorate it, the event is recreated every year as an open water swimming event.


Byron is considered to be the first modern-style celebrity. His image as the personification of the Byronic hero fascinated the public, and his wife Annabella coined the term "Byromania" to refer to the commotion surrounding him. His self-awareness and personal promotion are seen as a beginning to what would become the modern rock star; he would instruct artists painting portraits of him not to paint him with pen or book in hand, but as a "man of action." While Byron first welcomed fame, he later turned from it by going into voluntary exile from Britain.

Fondness for animals

Byron had a great love of animals, most notably for a Newfoundland dog named Boatswain. When the animal contracted rabies, Byron nursed him, albeit unsuccessfully, without any thought or fear of becoming bitten and infected.

Although deep in debt at the time, Byron commissioned an impressive marble funerary monument for Boatswain at Newstead Abbey, larger than his own, and the only building work which he ever carried out on his estate. In his 1811 will, Byron requested that he be buried with him. The 26 verse poem, Epitaph to a Dog, has become one of his best-known works, but a draft of an 1830 letter by Hobhouse shows him to be the author, and that Byron decided to use Hobhouse's lengthy epitaph instead of his own, which read: "To mark a friend's remains these stones arise/I never knew but one—and here he lies."

Byron also kept a tame bear while he was a student at Trinity, out of resentment for rules forbidding pet dogs like his beloved Boatswain. There being no mention of bears in their statutes, the college authorities had no legal basis for complaining: Byron even suggested that he would apply for a college fellowship for the bear.

During his lifetime, in addition to numerous dogs and horses, Byron kept a fox, four monkeys, a parrot, five cats, an eagle, a crow, a crocodile, a falcon, five peacocks, two guinea hens, an Egyptian crane, a badger, three geese, a heron and a goat with a broken leg. Except for the horses, they all resided indoors at his homes in England, Switzerland, Italy and Greece.

Lasting Influence

The re-founding of the Byron Society in 1971 reflects the fascination that many people have for Byron and his work. This society has become very active, publishing an annual journal. Today 36 Byron Societies function throughout the world, and an International Conference takes place annually.

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. Byron has inspired works by Franz Liszt, Hector Berlioz, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, and Giuseppe Verdi.

Depictions in Fiction and Film

Byron first appeared as a thinly disguised fictional character in his ex-love Lady Caroline Lamb's book Glenarvon, published in 1816.
The archetypal vampire character, notably Bram Stoker's Dracula, is based on Byron. The gothic ideal of a decadent, pale and aristocratic individual who enamors himself to whomever he meets, but who is perceived to have a dark and dangerous inner-self is a literary form derived from characteristations of Byron. The image of a vampire portrayed as an aristocrat was created by John Polidori, in "The Vampyre", during the summer of 1816 which he spent in the company of Byron. The titled Count Dracula is a reprise of this character.

Byron was the subject of a 1908 play Byron by Alicia Ramsey and its 1922 film adaptation A Prince of Lovers in which he was played by Howard Gaye.

Byron is the main character of the film Byron by the Greek film maker Nikos Koundouros.

Byron's spirit is one of the title characters of the Ghosts of Albion books by Amber Benson and Christopher Golden. John Crowley's book Lord Byron's Novel: The Evening Land (2005) involves the rediscovery of a lost manuscript by Lord Byron, as does Frederic Prokosch's The Missolonghi Manuscript (1968).

Byron appears as a character in Tim Powers's time travel/alternative history novels The Stress of Her Regard (1989) and The Anubis Gates (1983), Walter Jon Williams's fantasy novella Wall, Stone Craft (1994), and also in Susanna Clarke's alternative history Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell (2004).

Byron appears as an immortal, still living in modern times, in the television show Highlander: The Series in the fifth season episode The Modern Prometheus, living as a decadent rock star.

Tom Holland, in his 1995 novel The Vampyre: Being the True Pilgrimage of George Gordon, Sixth Lord Byron, romantically describes how Lord Byron became a vampire during his first visit to Greece — a fictional transformation that explains much of his subsequent behaviour towards family and friends, and finds support in quotes from Byron poems and the diaries of John Cam Hobhouse. It is written as though Byron is retelling part of his life to his great great-great-great-granddaughter. He describes travelling in Greece, Italy, Switzerland, meeting Percy Bysshe Shelley, Shelley's death, and many other events in life around that time. The Byron as vampire character returns in the 1996 sequel Supping with Panthers.

Byron and Percy and Mary Shelley are portrayed in Roger Corman's final film Frankenstein Unbound, where the time traveller Dr. Buchanan (played by John Hurt) meets them as well as Victor von Frankenstein (played by Raúl Juliá).

The Black Drama by Manly Wade Wellman, originally published in Weird Tales, involves the rediscovery and production of a lost play by Byron (from which Polidori's The Vampyre was plagiarised) by a man who purports to be a descendant of the poet.

Tom Stoppard's play Arcadia revolves around a modern researcher's attempts to find out what made Byron leave the country, while Howard Brenton's play Bloody Poetry features Byron, in addition to Polidori, the Shelleys and Claire Clairmont.

Television portrayals include a major 2003 BBC drama on Byron's life, an appearance in the 2006 BBC drama, Beau Brummell: This Charming Man, and minor appearances in Highlander: The Series (as well as the Shelleys), Blackadder the Third, episode 60 (Darkling) of Star Trek: Voyager, and was also parodied in the animated sketch series, Monkey Dust.

He makes an appearance in the alternative history novel The Difference Engine by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling. In a Britain powered by the massive, steam-driven, mechanical computers invented by Charles Babbage, he is leader of the Industrial Radical Party, eventually becoming Prime Minister.

The events featuring the Shelleys' and Byron's relationship at the house beside Lake Geneva in 1816 have been fictionalised in film at least three times.

A 1986 British production, Gothic, directed by Ken Russell, and starring Gabriel Byrne as Byron.

A 1988 Spanish production, Rowing with the wind aka (Remando al viento), starring Hugh Grant as Byron.

A 1988 U.S.A. production Haunted Summer. Adapted by Lewis John Carlino from the speculative novel by Anne Edwards, starring Philip Anglim as Lord Byron.

The brief prologue to Bride of Frankenstein includes Gavin Gordon as Byron, begging Mary Shelley to tell the rest of her Frankenstein story.

Novelist Benjamin Markovits produced a trilogy about the life of Byron. Imposture (2007) looked at the poet from the point of view of his friend and doctor, John Polidori. A Quiet Adjustment (2008), is an account of Byron's marriage that is more sympathetic to his wife, Annabella. Childish Loves(2011) is a reimagining of Byron's lost memoirs, dealing with questions about his childhood and sexual awakening.

Byron is portrayed as an immortal in the book, Divine Fire, by Melanie Jackson.

In the comic thriller, Edward Trencom's Nose by Giles Milton, several of Edward's ancestors are poisoned, along with Byron.

In The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy episode "Ecto Cooler" (2005), the episode opens with a quote from Don Juan. Byron's ghost appears to instruct Billy on how to be cool.

In the novel The History of Lucy's Love Life in Ten and a Half Chapters, Lucy Lyons uses a time machine to visit 1813 and meet her idol, Byron.

Byron is depicted in Tennessee William's play Camino Real.

Byron's life is the subject of the 2003 made for television movie Byron starring Jonny Lee Miller.

Byron is depicted as the villain/antagonist in the novel Jane Bites Back written by Michael Thomas Ford, published by Ballantine Books, 2010. A novel based on the premise that Jane Austen (and Lord Byron) are Vampires living in the modern day literary world.

The play A Year Without A Summer by Brad C. Hodson is about Byron, Polidori, the Shelleys, and Claire Clairmont and the famous summer of 1816 at the Villa Diodati. As opposed to other works dealing with the same period, the play is more a biopic dealing with Byron's divorce and exile from England, than with the Shelleys' lives.

Lawrence Durrell wrote a poem called Byron as a lyrical soliloquy; it was first published in 1944.

Susanna Roxman's Allegra in her 1996 collection Broken Angels (Dionysia Press, Edinburgh) is a poem about Byron's daughter by Claire Clairmont. In this text, Byron is referred to as "Papa".

Dan Chapman's 2010 vampire novella The Postmodern Malady of Dr. Peter Hudson begins at the time of Lord Byron's death and uses biographical information about him in the construction of its title character. It also directly quotes some of his work.

Stephanie Barron's series of Jane Austen Mysteries has Lord Byron a suspect of murder in the 2010 book, Jane and the Madness of Lord Byron.

He appears in a parallel story line in the novel The Fire by Katherine Neville.

Byron is also a minor character in the ninth novel of L.A. Meyer's Bloody Jack series The Mark of the Golden Dragon.

Musical settings of, or music inspired by, poems by Byron

1820 – William Crathern: My Boat is On the Shore (1820), a setting for voice and piano of words from the poem To Thomas More written by Byron in 1817
c. 1820–1860 – Carl Loewe: 24 songs
1833 – Gaetano Donizetti: Parisina, opera
1834 – Hector Berlioz: Harold en Italie, symphony in four movements for viola and orchestra
1835 – Gaetano Donizetti: Marino Faliero, opera
1844 – Hector Berlioz: Le Corsaire overture (possibly also inspired by James Fenimore Cooper's Red Rover as the original title is Le Corsaire Rouge)
1844 – Giuseppe Verdi: I due Foscari, opera in three acts
1848 – Giuseppe Verdi: Il corsaro, opera in three acts
1849 – Robert Schumann: Overture and incidental music to Manfred
1849–54 – Franz Liszt: Tasso, Lamento e trionfo, symphonic poem
1885 – Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky: Manfred Symphony in B minor, Op. 58
1896 – Hugo Wolf: Vier Gedichte nach Heine, Shakespeare und Lord Byron for voice and piano: 3. Sonne der Schlummerlosen 4. Keine gleicht von allen Schönen
1916 – Pietro Mascagni: Parisina, opera in four acts
1934 – Germaine Tailleferre: Two Poems of Lord Byron (1. Sometimes in moments... 2. 'Tis Done I heard it in my dreams... for Voice and Piano (Tailleferre's only setting of English language texts)
1942 – Arnold Schoenberg: Ode to Napoleon for reciter, string quartet and piano
mid 1970s: Arion Quinn: She Walks in Beauty
1984 – David Bowie: Music video for Blue Jean and short promotional video for Blue Jean, Jazzin' for Blue Jean features him playing a rock star named Screaming Lord Byron (cf. Screaming Lord Sutch). His attire for the rock star mimics that of Lord Byron's in the portrait by Thomas Phillips.
1997 – Solefald: When the Moon is on the Wave
2002 – Ariella Uliano: So We'll Go No More A'Roving
2002 – Warren Zevon: Lord Byron's Luggage
2004 – Leonard Cohen: No More A-Roving
2005 – Cockfighter (band): Destruction
2006 – Kris Delmhorst: We'll Go No More A-Roving
2006 – Cradle Of Filth: The Byronic Man featuring HIM's Ville Valo
2008 – ALPHA 60: The rock, the vulture, and the chain
2008 – Schiller (band) has a song called "Nacht" with Ben Becker on its album, Sehnsucht (Schiller album), which has video on Youtube. The lyrics are a shortened version of a poem in German called Die Seele that is attributed to Lord Byron. It appears to be a translation of the Byron poem, "When coldness wraps this suffering clay" from the collection, Hebrew Melodies. The Identity of the translator/author of Die Seele is unknown although the text may be from "Lord Byrons Werke In sechs Bänden" translated by Otto Gildemeister, 3rd Volume, Fifth Edition, Berlin 1903 (pages 134–135).
2011 – Agustí Charles: Lord Byron. Un estiu sense estiu. Opera en dos actes (Lord Byron. A summer without a summer. Opera in two actes). Libretto in Catalan by Marc Rosich, world premiere at Staatstheater Darmstadt, March 2011.
Perth rock band Eleventh He Reaches London are named in reference to the eleventh canto of Don Juan, in which Don Juan arrives in London. Their debut album, The Good Fight for Harmony also featured a track entitled "What Would Don Juan Do?"

Byron's best-known works are the brief poems She Walks in Beauty, When We Two Parted, and So, we'll
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