Byron, George Gordon, sixth Lord (1788–1824)
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Byron was born in London in 1788, inherited his title at the age of ten, moved from Scotland to the Byrons’ dilapidated estate near Nottingham (Newstead Abbey, which is the basis for ‘Norman Abbey’ in Don Juan, XIII–XVII), and was educated at Harrow and Cambridge. In 1809–11 he made a tour of Portugal, Spain, Greece and Turkey which he described in the first two cantos of Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage. With the publication of these in 1812 he found instant and enduring fame. He wrote next a series of tales mainly set in the Near East which fascinated early readers by their exotic locations and the psychology of their villain heroes (all versions of the ‘Byronic hero’). These are The Giaour (1813), The Bride of Abydos (1813), The Corsair (1814), Lara (1814), The Siege of Corinth (1816) and Parisina (1816). In 1815 he married Anne Isabella Milbanke, whom he described in a letter to Lady Melbourne (20 Apr 1814) as ‘a very superior woman, a little encumbered with Virtue’. Byron later satirised her as Donna Inez in canto I of Don Juan. They separated after fifteen months amidst rumour, largely instigated by Byron’s own compulsive indiscretion, of incest with his half-sister Augusta Leigh and homosexuality. Leaving England permanently in 1816, he travelled through Belgium (visiting the scene of Waterloo) and Germany to Switzerland, where he met Shelley for the first time and wrote Manfred (1817), and then settled in Venice, from whence he visited Rome (1817).
KeywordsCanterbury Tale Nineteenth Century Onward Private Prosecution Exotic Location Poetic Practice
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