George Gordon Byron, 6th
Baron Byron FRS (22 January 1788 – 19
April 1824), known as Lord Byron, was an English nobleman, poet, peer,
politician, and leading figure in the Romantic movement. He is
regarded as one of the greatest British poets and remains widely
read and influential. Among his best-known works are the lengthy
narrative poems Don Juan and
Childe Harold's Pilgrimage
Childe Harold's Pilgrimage as well as the
short lyric poem "She Walks in Beauty".
He travelled extensively across Europe, especially in Italy, where he
lived for seven years in the cities of Venice,
Ravenna and Pisa.
During his stay in
Italy he frequently visited his friend and fellow
poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. Later in life Byron joined the Greek War
of Independence fighting the Ottoman Empire, for which
him as a national hero. He died in 1824 at the age of 36 from a
fever contracted in Missolonghi.
Often described as the most flamboyant and notorious of the major
Romantics, Byron was both celebrated and castigated in his life for
his aristocratic excesses, which included huge debts, numerous love
affairs with both men and women, as well as rumors of a scandalous
liaison with his half-sister. His only legitimate child, Ada
Lovelace, is regarded as the first computer programmer based on her
notes for Charles Babbage's Analytical Engine. Byron's
illegitimate children include Allegra Byron, who died in childhood,
and possibly Elizabeth Medora Leigh.
1 Early life
2 Education and early loves
3.1 Early career
3.2 First travels to the East
3.3 England 1811–1816
4 Life abroad (1816–1824)
4.1 The Shelleys
4.4.1 Post mortem
5 Personal life
5.1 Relationships and scandals
5.3 Sea and swimming
5.4 Fondness for animals
6 Health and appearance
6.1 Character and psyche
6.2 Deformed foot
6.3 Physical appearance
7 Political career
8 Poetic works
8.1 Don Juan
9 Parthenon marbles
10 Legacy and influence
10.1 Byronic hero
10.2 In popular culture
11.1 Major works
11.2 Selected shorter lyric poems
12 See also
14 Further reading
15 External links
Further information: Early life of George Gordon Byron
An engraving of Byron's father, Captain John "Mad Jack" Byron, date
Catherine Gordon, Byron's mother, by Thomas Stewardson
Ethel Colburn Mayne
Ethel Colburn Mayne states that George Gordon Byron was born on 22
January 1788, in a house on 24 Holles Street in London. His
birthplace is now occupied by a branch of the English department store
John Lewis. However,
Robert Charles Dallas
Robert Charles Dallas in his Recollections
states that Byron was born in Dover.
Byron was the son of Captain
John "Mad Jack" Byron
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
Carmarthen and, after she divorced her husband, he married her. His
treatment of her was described as "brutal and vicious", and she died
after giving birth to two daughters, and only one of whom survived,
Byron's half-sister, Augusta. To claim his second wife's estate in
Scotland, Byron's father took the additional surname "Gordon",
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.
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 at
St Marylebone Parish Church
St Marylebone Parish Church as "George Gordon
Byron", after his maternal grandfather George Gordon of Gight, a
descendant of James I of Scotland, who had committed suicide in
"Mad Jack" Byron married his second wife for the same reason that 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 to give birth to her son on English soil. He was born on
22 January in lodgings at 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 continuingly borrowing money from
her. As a result, she fell even further into debts 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
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 living there, she
decided to lease it to Lord Grey de Ruthyn, among others, during
Described as "a woman without judgment or self-command," Catherine
either spoiled and indulged her son or vexed 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. Byron had been born with a deformed right foot;
his mother once retaliated and, in a fit of temper, referred to him as
"a lame brat." However, Byron's biographer, Doris Langley-Moore,
in her 1974 book, Accounts Rendered, paints a more sympathetic view of
Mrs Byron, showing how she was a staunch supporter of her son and
sacrificed her own precarious finances to keep him in luxury at Harrow
and Cambridge. Langley-Moore questions the Galt claim that she
over-indulged in alcohol.
Upon the death of Byron's mother-in-law Judith Noel, the Hon. Lady
Milbanke, in 1822, her will required that he change his surname to
"Noel" so as to inherit half of her estate. He obtained a Royal
Warrant, allowing him to "take and use the surname of Noel only" and
to "subscribe the said surname of Noel before all titles of honour".
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 initials would read "N.B.",
mimicking those of his hero,
Napoleon Bonaparte. Lady Byron eventually
succeeded to the Barony of Wentworth, becoming "Lady Wentworth."
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 cricketer, he did
represent the school during the very first
Eton v Harrow cricket match
Lord's in 1805.
His lack of moderation was not 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
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." Letters to Byron in the John Murray archive
contain evidence of a previously unremarked if short-lived romantic
relationship with a younger boy at Harrow, John Thomas Claridge.
John FitzGibbon, 2nd Earl of Clare
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 went up to 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
Byron spent three years at Trinity College, engaging in sexual
escapades, boxing, horse riding and gambling. Also while at
Cambridge he formed lifelong friendships with men such as John Cam
Hobhouse, who initiated him into the Cambridge Whig Club, which
endorsed liberal politics, and Francis Hodgson, a Fellow at King's
College, with whom he corresponded on literary and other matters until
the end of his life.
Lord Byron by Henry Pierce Bone
While not at school or college, Byron lived with his mother in
Southwell, Nottinghamshire, in some antagonism.[clarification
needed] 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 17. However, it was promptly recalled and burned on the
advice of his friend, the Reverend J. T. Becher, 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
English Bards and Scotch Reviewers
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." Alexander 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,
R. C. Dallas
R. C. 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.
Autograph letter signed to John Hanson, Byron's lawyer and business
agent. Fondazione BEIC
After his return from travels he again entrusted
R. C. Dallas
R. C. 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. About the same
time, he began his intimacy with his future biographer, Thomas Moore.
First travels to the East
Byron's Stone in Tepelene, Albania
Teresa Makri in 1870
Byron racked up numerous debts as a young man, owing 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
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. He travelled with Hobhouse for the first year
and his entourage of servants included the Byron's trustworthy valet,
William Fletcher. Fletcher was often the butt of Hobhouse and
Byron’s humour. The
Napoleonic Wars forced him to avoid most of
Europe, and he instead turned to the Mediterranean. The journey
provided the opportunity to flee creditors, as well as a former love,
Mary Chaworth (the subject of his poem from this time, "To a Lady: On
Being Asked My Reason for Quitting England in the Spring").
Letters to Byron from his friend Charles Skinner Matthews reveal that
a key motive was also the hope of homosexual experience.
Attraction to the
Levant was probably also a reason; 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
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, Cádiz,
Gibraltar and from
there by sea on to
Malta and Greece.
While in Athens, Byron met 14-year-old Nicolo Giraud, who became quite
close and taught him Italian. It has been suggested 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. "I am tired of pl & opt Cs, the last thing I could
be tired of", Byron wrote to Hobhouse from
Athens (an abbreviation of
"coitum plenum et optabilem" – complete intercourse to one's heart's
desire, from Petronius's Satyricon), which, as an earlier letter
establishes, was their shared code for homosexual experience.
In 1810 in
Athens Byron wrote
Maid of Athens, ere we part
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
Malta in July 1811 aboard HMS Volage.
Byron became a celebrity with the publication of the first two cantos
of "Childe Harold's Pilgrimage" (1812). "He rapidly became the most
brilliant star in the dazzling world of Regency London. He was sought
after at every society venue, elected to several exclusive clubs, and
frequented the most fashionable
London drawing-rooms." During this
period in England he produced many works including The Giaour, The
Bride of Abydos (1813),
Parisina and The Siege of Corinth (1815).
Involved at first in an affair with
Lady Caroline Lamb
Lady Caroline Lamb (who called him
"mad, bad and dangerous to know") and with other lovers and also
pressed by debt, he began to seek a suitable marriage, considering –
amongst others – Annabella Millbanke. However, in 1813 he met for
the first time in four years his half-sister, Augusta Leigh. Rumours
of incest surrounded the pair; Augusta's daughter Medora (b. 1814) was
suspected to have been Byron's. To escape from growing debts and
rumours, Byron pressed his determination to marry Annabella, who was
said to be the likely heiress of a rich uncle. They married on 2
January 1815, and their daughter, Ada, was born in December of that
year. However Byron's continuing obsession with Augusta (and his
continuing sexual escapades with actresses and others) made their
marital life a misery. Annabella considered Byron insane, and in
January 1816 she left him, taking their daughter, and began
proceedings for a legal separation. Their separation was made legal in
a private settlement in March 1816. The scandal of the separation, the
rumours about Augusta, and ever-increasing debts forced him to leave
England in April 1816, never to return.
Life abroad (1816–1824)
Percy Bysshe Shelley, 1819
Mary Shelley, 1840
After this break-up of his domestic life, Byron left England and never
returned.(Despite his dying wishes, however, his body was returned for
burial in England.) He journeyed 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. Several times Byron went to see
Germaine de Staël, who turned out to be a valid intellectual and
emotional support to Byron at the time.
Frontispiece to a c. 1825 edition of Childe Harold's Pilgrimage
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, "A Fragment", 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
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.
Byron's visit to San Lazzaro as depicted by
Ivan Aivazovsky (1899)
In 1816, Byron visited
San Lazzaro degli Armeni
San Lazzaro degli Armeni in Venice, where he
acquainted himself with
Armenian culture with the help of the monks
belonging to the Mechitarist Order. With the help of Father Pascal
Aucher (Harutiun Avkerian), he learned the Armenian language, and
attended many seminars about language and history. He co-authored
Grammar English and Armenian in 1817, an English textbook written by
Aucher and corrected by Byron, and A Grammar Armenian and English in
1819, a project initiated by him of a grammar of Classical Armenian
for English speakers, where he included quotations from classical and
Byron later participated in the compilation of the English Armenian
dictionary (Barraran angleren 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 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 18 year old Countess
Guiccioli, who found her first love in Byron, who in turn asked her to
elope with him.
Led by the love for this local aristocratic and married young Teresa
Guiccioli, Byron lived in
Ravenna between 1819 and 1821. Here he
continued Don Juan and wrote the
Ravenna Diary and My Dictionary and
Recollections. It was about this time that he received visits from
Shelley, as well as 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. Of Byron's lifestyle in
Ravenna we know more from
Shelley, who documented some of its more colourful aspects in a
Lord Byron gets up at two. I get up, quite contrary to my
usual custom … at 12. After breakfast we sit talking till six. From
six to eight we gallop through the pine forest which divide Ravenna
from the sea; we then come home and dine, and sit up gossiping till
six in the morning. I don’t suppose this will kill me in a week or
fortnight, but I shall not try it longer. Lord B.’s establishment
consists, besides servants, of ten horses, eight enormous dogs, three
monkeys, five cats, an eagle, a crow, and a falcon; and all these,
except the horses, walk about the house, which every now and then
resounds with their unarbitrated quarrels, as if they were the masters
of it… . [P.S.] I find that my enumeration of the animals in this
Circean Palace was defective … . I have just met on the grand
staircase five peacocks, two guinea hens, and an Egyptian crane. I
wonder who all these animals were before they were changed into these
"Byron's Grotto" in Porto Venere, Italy, named in his honour, because
according to a local legend he meditated here and drew inspiration
from this place for his literary works.
Lord Byron in Athens.
From 1821 to 1822, Byron finished Cantos 6–12 of Don Juan at Pisa,
and in the same year he joined with Leigh Hunt and 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, 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
Trelawney after Williams and Shelley drowned in a boating accident on
8 July 1822. His last Italian home was Genoa. While living there he
was accompanied by the Countess Guiccioli and the Blessingtons. Lady
Blessington based much of the material in her book, Conversations with
Lord Byron, on the time spent together there. This book became an
important biographical text about Byron’s life just prior to his
Further information: Greek War of Independence
Lord Byron painted by
Thomas Phillips in 1813. Venizelos Mansion,
Athens (the British Ambassador's residence)
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. At
first, Byron did not wish to leave his twenty-two-year-old mistress
Countess Teresa Guiccioli who had abandoned her husband to live with
him; ultimately Guiccioli's father, Count Gamba was allowed to leave
his exile in the Romagna under the condition that his daughter return
to him, without Byron. At the same time that the philhellene
Edward Blaquiere was attempting to recruit him, Byron was confused as
to what he was supposed to do in Greece, writing: "Blaquiere seemed to
think that I might be of some use-even here;-though what he did not
exactly specify". With the assistance of his banker and Captain
Daniel Roberts, Byron chartered the brig Hercules to take him to
Greece. When Byron left Genoa, it caused "passionate grief" from
Guiccioli, who wept openly as he sailed away to Greece. The Hercules
was forced to return to port shortly afterwards. When it set sail for
the final time, Guiccioli had already left Genoa. On 16 July,
Genoa arriving at
Kefalonia in the
Ionian Islands on 4
His voyage is covered in detail in Donald Prell's Sailing with Byron
Genoa to Cephalonia. Prell also wrote of a 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
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 aged 37 when, on 21 September
1852, she went aground near Hartlepool, only 25 miles south of
Sunderland, where in 1815, her keel was laid; Byron's "keel was laid"
nine months before his official birth date, 22 January 1788; therefore
in ship-years, he was aged 37, when he died in Missolonghi.
Byron initially stayed on the island of Kephalonia, where he was
besieged by agents of the rival Greek factions, all of whom wanted to
recruit Byron to their own cause. The Ionian islands, of which
Kefalonia is one, were under British rule until 1864. Byron spent
£4,000 of his own money to refit the Greek fleet. When Byron
travelled to the mainland of
Greece on the night of 28 December 1823,
Byron's ship was surprised by an Ottoman warship, which did not attack
his ship as the Ottoman captain mistook Byron's boat for a
fireship. To avoid the Ottoman Navy, which he encountered several
times on his voyage, Byron was forced to take a roundabout route and
Missolonghi on 5 January 1824.
After arriving in Missolonghi, Byron joined forces with Alexandros
Mavrokordatos, a Greek politician with military power. Byron moved on
the second floor of a two-story house and was forced much of his time
dealing with unruly Souliots who demanded that Byron pay them the
back-pay owed to them by the Greek government. Byron gave the
Souliots some £6, 000 pounds. Byron was supposed to lead an
attack on the Ottoman fortress of Navpaktos, whose Albanian garrison
were unhappy owing to pay arrears and were offering to put up only
token resistance if Byron was willing to bribe them into surrendering,
but Ottoman commander, Yussuf
Pasha solved the problem by executing
the mutinous Albanian officers who were offering to surrender
Navpaktos to Byron and arranging to have some of the pay arrears paid
out to the rest of the garrison. Byron never led the attack on
Navpaktos as the Souliots kept demanding that Byron pay them more and
more money before they would march, before Byron who was growing tired
of their blackmail sent them all home on 15 February 1824. Byron
wrote in a note to himself: "Having tried in vain at every
expence-considerable trouble-and some danger to unite the Suliotes for
the good of Greece-and their own-I have come to the following
resolution-I will have nothing more to do with the Suliotes-they may
go to the Turks or the devil...they may cut me into more pieces than
they have dissensions among them, sooner than change my
resolution". At the same time, Guiccioli's brother, Pietro Gamba
who followed Byron to
Greece exasperated Byron with his incompetence
as he consistently made expensive mistakes, for example, when asked to
buy some cloth from Corfu, Gamba ordered the wrong cloth in excess,
leading to the bill being ten times higher than what Byron wanted.
Byron wrote about his right-hand man: "Gamba-who is anything but
lucky-had something to do with it-and as usual-the moment he
had-matters went wrong".
The reception of
Lord Byron at Missolonghi
To help raise money for the revolution, Byron sold his estate Rochdale
Manor in Scotland, which raised some £11, 250 pound sterling, which
led Byron to estimate that he now had some £20, 000 pounds at his
disposal, all of which he planned to spend on the Greek cause. In
today's money Byron would have been a millionaire many times over, and
the news that a fabulously wealthy British aristocrat known for his
generosity in spending money had arrived in
Greece made Byron the
object of much solicitation in a desperately poor country like
Greece. Byron wrote to his business agent in Scotland "I should
not like to give the
Greeks but a half helping hand", saying he would
wanted to spend his entire fortune on Greek freedom. Byron found
himself besieged by various people, both Greek and foreign who were
always trying to persuade Byron to open up his pocketbook to support
them. By the end of March 1824, the so-called "Byron brigade" of 30
philhellene officers and about 200 men had been formed, paid for
entirely by Byron. Leadership of the Greek cause in the Roumeli
region was divided between two rival leaders, a former
Odysseas Androutsos and a wealthy Phanariot merchant Alexandros
Mavrokordatos. Byron used his prestige to attempt to persuade the two
rival leaders to come together to focus on defeating the Ottomans.
At same time, other leaders of the Greek factions like Petrobey
Theodoros Kolokotronis were writing letters to Byron
telling him to disregard all of the Roumeliot leaders and to come to
their respective areas in the Peloponnese, which drove Byron to
distraction as he complained that the
Greeks were hopelessly disunited
and spent more time feuding with each other than in trying to win
independence. Byron's friend
Edward John Trelawny
Edward John Trelawny had aligned
himself with Androutsos, who ruled
Athens and was now pressing for
Byron to break with Mavrokordatos in favour of backing his rival
Androutsos. Androutsos, having won over Trelawny to his cause, was
now anxious to win the real prize by persuading Byron to put his
wealth behind his claim to be the leader of Greece. Byron wrote
with disgust how one of the Greek captains, a former
Missolonghi on 3 April 1824 with some 150 men
supported by the Souliots as he was unhappy with Mavrokordatos's
leadership, leading to a brief bout of inter-Greek fighting before
Karaiskais was chased away by 6 April.
Byron adopted a nine year old Turkish Muslim girl called Hato whose
parents had been killed by the Greeks, and whom he ultimately sent to
safety in Kephalonia, knowing well that religious hatred between the
Greeks and Muslim Turks were running high and any Muslim in
Greece, even a child, was in serious danger. Until 1934, most
Turks did not have surnames, so Hato's lack of a surname was quite
typical for a Turkish family at this time. During this time, Byron
pursued his Greek page, Lukas Chalandritsanos, with whom he had fallen
madly in love, but the affections went unrequited. Byron was
infatuated with the teenage Chalandritsanos, whom he spoiled
outrageously, spending some £600 (the equivalent to about £24,600 in
today's money) to cater to his every whim over the course of six
months and wrote his last poems about his passion for the Greek boy,
but Chalandritsanos was only interested in Byron's money. When the
famous Danish sculptor
Bertel Thorvaldsen heard about Byron's heroics
in Greece, he voluntarily resculpted his earlier bust of Byron in
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 he took part of the rebel army
under his own command, despite his lack of military experience. Before
the expedition could sail, on 15 February 1824, he fell ill, and
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 instruments, may have
caused him to develop sepsis. He developed a violent fever, and died
Missolonghi on 19 April.
His physician at the time, Julius van Millingen, son of Dutch-English
archaeologist James Millingen, was unable to prevent his death. It has
been said that if Byron had lived and had gone on to defeat the
Ottomans, he might have been declared King of Greece. However,
contemporary scholars have found such an outcome unlikely. The
British historian David Brewer wrote that in one sense, Byron was a
Greece as he failed to persuade the rival Greek factions to
unite. Also, he did not achieve any military victories. He was
successful only in the humanitarian sphere, using his great wealth to
help the victims of the war, Muslim and Christian, but this did not
affect the outcome of the Greek war of independence one iota.
Brewer went on to argue "In another sense, though, Byron achieved
everything he could have wished. His presence in Greece, and in
particular his death there, drew to the Greek cause not just the
attention of sympathetic nations, but their increasing active
participation...Despite the critics, Byron is primarily remembered
with admiration as a poet of genius, with something approaching
veneration as a symbol of high ideals, and with great affection as a
man: for his courage and his ironic slant on life, for his generosity
to the grandest of causes and to the humblest of individuals, for the
constant interplay of judgement and sympathy. In
Greece he is still
revered as no other foreigner, and as very few
Greeks are, and like a
Homeric hero he is accorded an honorific standard epithet, megalos kai
kalos, a great and good man".
Lord Byron on His Deathbed, by
Joseph Denis Odevaere
Joseph Denis Odevaere (c. 1826). Oil
on canvas, 166 × 234.5 cm Groeningemuseum, Bruges. (Note the
sheet covering his misshapen right foot.)
Narrative of Lord Byrons last journey to
Greece by Pietro Gamba (1825)
Alfred 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, the Greek form of
"Byron", continues in popularity as a masculine name in Greece, and a
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. His other remains were sent to England
(accompanied by his faithful manservant, "Tita") for burial in
Westminster Abbey, but the Abbey refused for reason of "questionable
morality". Huge crowds viewed his coffin as he lay in state
for two days in London. He is buried at the Church of St. Mary
Magdalene in Hucknall, Nottinghamshire. A marble slab given by the
Greece is laid directly above Byron's grave. His daughter, Ada
Lovelace, was later buried beside him.
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
Westminster Abbey and the National Gallery before
Trinity College, Cambridge, finally placed the statue of Byron in its
In 1969, 145 years after Byron's death, a memorial to him was finally
placed in Westminster Abbey. The memorial had been lobbied for
The New York Times
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
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.
Close to the centre of Athens, Greece, outside the National Garden, is
a statue depicting
Greece in the form of a woman crowning Byron. The
statue is by the French sculptors Henri-Michel Chapu and Alexandre
Falguière. Since 2008, the anniversary of Byron's death, 19 April,
has been honoured in
Greece as "Byron Day".
Upon his death, the barony passed to Byron's cousin George Anson
Byron, a career naval officer.
Relationships and scandals
Lady Caroline Lamb
Jane Elizabeth Scott
Jane Elizabeth Scott "Lady Oxford"
Anne Isabella Milbanke
Anne Isabella Milbanke in 1812 by Charles Hayter
Byron described his first intense feelings at age eight for his
distant cousin, Mary Duff:
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
When nine years old at his mother's house a Free 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 this sexual abuse as a means of ensuring his silence
if he were to be 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 De Ruthyn
(unrelated to May Gray), a suitor of his mother's, also made sexual
advances on 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-centred 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 De Ruthyn 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. Leslie A. Marchand, one of Byron's
biographers, theorises that Lord Grey De Ruthyn's advances prompted
Byron's later sexual liaisons with young men at Harrow and
Scholars acknowledge a more or less important bisexual component in
Byron's very complex sentimental and sexual life. Bernhard Jackson
asserts that "Byron's sexual orientation has long been a difficult,
not to say contentious, topic, and anyone who seeks to discuss it must
to some degree speculate, since the evidence is nebulous,
contradictory and scanty... it is not so simple to define Byron as
homosexual or heterosexual: he seems rather to have been both, and
either." Crompton states: "What was not understood in Byron's
own century (except by a tiny circle of his associates) was that Byron
was bisexual". Another biographer, Fiona MacCarthy, has posited
that Byron's true sexual yearnings were for adolescent males.
Byron notably used a code by which he communicated his homosexual
Greek adventures to John Hobhouse in England: Bernhard Jackson recalls
that "Byron's early code for sex with a boy" was "Plen(um). and
optabil(em). -Coit(um)" Bullough summarizes:
Byron, was attached to Nicolo Giraud, a young French-Greek lad who had
been a model for the painter Lusieri before Byron found him. Byron
left him 7,000 pounds in his will. When Byron returned to Italy, he
became involved with a number of boys in
Venice but eventually settled
on Loukas Chalandritsanos, age 15, who was with him when he was killed
(sic) (Crompton, 1985).
— Bullough (1990), p. 72
In 1812, Byron embarked on a well-publicised affair with the married
Lady Caroline Lamb
Lady Caroline Lamb that shocked the British public. She had
spurned the attention of the poet on their first meeting, subsequently
giving Byron what became his lasting epitaph when she famously
described him as "mad, bad and dangerous to know". This did not
prevent her from pursuing him.
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
sarcastically 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 pageboy, 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, rumoured by some to be Byron's.
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. That same year (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." That same year Lady Caroline
published her popular novel Glenarvon, wherein
Lord Byron was
portrayed as the seedy character Lord Ruthven.
Allegra Byron (1817–1822)
Elizabeth Medora Leigh (1814–1849)
Byron wrote a letter to John Hanson from Newstead Abbey, dated 17
January 1809, that includes "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." His reference to "The
youngest" is understood to have been to a maid, Lucy, and the
parenthesised remark to indicate himself as siring a son born that
year. In 2010 part of a baptismal record was uncovered which
apparently said: "September 24 George illegitimate son of Lucy Monk,
illegitimate son of Baron Byron, of Newstead, Nottingham, Newstead
Augusta Leigh's child, Elizabeth Medora Leigh, born 1814, was very
likely fathered by Byron, who was Augusta's half-brother.
Byron had a child, The Hon. Augusta Ada Byron ("Ada", later Countess
of Lovelace), in 1815, by his wife 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 computer programmer.
He also had an illegitimate child in 1817, Clara Allegra Byron, with
Claire Clairmont, stepsister of
Mary Shelley and stepdaughter of
William Godwin, writer of Political Justice and Caleb Williams.
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, and
he made arrangements for her to inherit 5,000 lira upon marriage or
when she reached the age of 21, provided she did not marry a native of
Britain. However, the girl died aged five of a fever in
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.
Sea and swimming
Byron 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.
Whilst sailing from
Cephalonia in 1823, every day at noon,
Byron and Trelawny, in calm weather, jumped overboard for a swim
without fear of sharks, which were not unknown in those waters. Once,
according to Trelawny, they let the geese and ducks loose and followed
them and the dogs into the water, each with an arm in the ship
Captain’s new scarlet waistcoat, to the annoyance of the Captain and
the amusement of the crew.
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
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‐line 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 cats, dogs, and horses,
Byron kept a fox, monkeys, an eagle, a crow, a falcon, peacocks,
guinea hens, an Egyptian crane, a badger, geese, a heron, and a
goat. Except for the horses, they all resided indoors at his
homes in England, Switzerland, Italy, and Greece.
Health and appearance
Character and psyche
I am such a strange mélange of good and evil that it would be
difficult to describe me.
As a boy, Byron's 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.
From birth, Byron suffered from a deformity of his right foot.
Although it has generally been referred to as a "club foot", some
modern medical authors 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
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.
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
did not realise he had any deficiency for several days, and still
could not tell at first if the lameness was a temporary injury or not.
At the time Galt met him 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.
Reproduction of Portrait of
Lord Byron by Thomas Phillips
Byron's house in Southwell, Nottinghamshire
Byron's adult height was 5 feet 8.5 inches (1.74 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. He attended pugilistic tuition at the Bond
Street rooms of former prizefighting champion ‘Gentleman’ John
Jackson, who Byron called ‘the Emperor of Pugilism’ and recorded
these sparring sessions in his letters and journals.
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 suggests that the pain
in his deformed foot made physical activity difficult, and his weight
problem was the result.
Byron first took his seat in the
House of Lords
House of Lords 13 March 1809,
London on 11 June 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, on 27 February 1812,
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, and concluded the proposed law was only missing two
things to be effective: "Twelve Butchers for a Jury and a Jeffries for
a Judge!". Byron's speech was officially recorded and printed in
Hansard. 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, was presented to Dallas in manuscript form and he quotes
it in his work.
Two months later, Byron made another impassioned speech before the
House of Lords
House of Lords in support of Catholic emancipation. Byron
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
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).[citation
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.
Main article: Don Juan (Byron)
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 poem, often called the epic of its
time, has roots deep in literary tradition and, although regarded by
Victorians as somewhat shocking, equally involves itself with
its own contemporary world at all levels – social, political,
literary and ideological. In addition to its biting satire, the poem
(especially in the early cantos) is funny.
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. In letters to Francis Hodgson, Byron
referred to Wordsworth as "Turdsworth".
Main article: Elgin 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 spaces left by
the missing friezes and metopes. He denounced Elgin's actions in his
poem The Curse of Minerva and in Canto II (stanzas XI-XV) of Childe
Legacy and influence
Stained glass at
Ottawa Public Library
Ottawa Public Library features Charles Dickens,
Archibald Lampman, Sir Walter Scott, Lord Byron, Alfred, Lord
Tennyson, William Shakespeare, Thomas Moore
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.
The burning of Byron's memoir in the offices of his publisher John
Murray a month after his death, and the suppression of details of
Byron's bisexuality by subsequent heads of the firm (which held the
richest Byron archive), distorted biographies. As late as the 1950s,
scholar Leslie Marchard was expressly forbidden by the Murray company
to reveal details of Byron's same-sex passions.
The re-founding of the Byron Society in 1971 reflected the fascination
that many people had with Byron and his work. This society became
very active, publishing an annual journal. Thirty-six Byron Societies
function throughout the world, and an International Conference takes
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's
writings also inspired many composers. Over forty operas have been
based on his works, in addition to three operas about Byron himself
(including Virgil Thomson's Lord Byron). His poetry was set to music
by many Romantic composers, including Mendelssohn, Carl Loewe, and
Robert Schumann. Among his greatest admirers was Hector Berlioz, whose
operas and Mémoires reveal Byron's influence.
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 the Brontë sisters. His philosophy was
more durably influential in continental Europe than in England;
Friedrich Nietzsche admired him, and the
Byronic hero was echoed in
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. These types of characters have since become
ubiquitous in literature and politics.
In popular culture
Lord Byron in popular culture
The Bride of Abydos
The Bride of Abydos or Selim and Zuleika. Painting, 1857, by Eugène
Delacroix depicting Lord Byron's work.
See also: Category:Works by Lord Byron.
Index of Titles
Index of First Lines
Hours of Idleness (1807)
English Bards and Scotch Reviewers
English Bards and Scotch Reviewers (1809)
Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, Cantos I & II (1812)
The Giaour (1813) (text on Wikisource)
The Bride of Abydos
The Bride of Abydos (1813)
The Corsair (1814) (text on Wikisource)
Lara, A Tale
Lara, A Tale (1814) (text on Wikisource)
Hebrew Melodies (1815)
The Siege of Corinth (1816) (text on Wikisource)
Parisina (1816) (text on Wikisource)
The Prisoner of Chillon
The Prisoner of Chillon (1816) (text on Wikisource)
The Dream (1816) (text on Wikisource)
Prometheus (1816) (text on Wikisource)
Darkness (1816) (text on Wikisource)
Manfred (1817) (text on Wikisource)
The Lament of Tasso (1817)
Beppo (1818) (text on Wikisource)
Childe Harold's Pilgrimage
Childe Harold's Pilgrimage (1818) (text on Wikisource)
Don Juan (1819–1824; incomplete on Byron's death in 1824) (text on
The Prophecy of Dante (1819)
Marino Faliero (1820)
The Two Foscari (1821)
The Vision of Judgment (1821)
Heaven and Earth (1821)
The Age of Bronze (1823)
The Island (1823) (text on Wikisource)
The Deformed Transformed (1824)
Narrative of Lord Byrons voyage to Corsica and Sardinia (1824)
Letters and journals, vol. 1 (1830)
Letters and journals, vol. 2 (1830)
Selected shorter lyric poems
Maid of Athens, ere we part
Maid of Athens, ere we part (1810) (text on Wikisource)
And thou art dead (1812) (text on Wikisource)
She Walks in Beauty (1814) (text on Wikisource)
My Soul is Dark (1815) (text on Wikisource)
The Destruction of Sennacherib (1815) (text on Wikisource)
Monody on the Death of the Right Hon. R. B. Sheridan (1816) (text on
Fare Thee Well (1816) (text on Wikisource)
So, we'll go no more a roving (1817) (text on Wikisource)
When We Two Parted (1817) (text on Wikisource)
Venice (1819) (text on Wikisource)
Don Leon (1830s)
Timeline of Lord Byron
Early life of Lord Byron
19th century in poetry
Bridge of Sighs, a
Venice landmark Byron denominated
David Crane (historian)
List of works by Alexandre Falguière
Asteroid 3306 Byron
This article incorporates text from a publication now in the
public domain: Cousin, John William (1910). A Short Biographical
Dictionary of English Literature. London: J. M. Dent & Sons.
^ "The Nation's Favourite
Poet Result - TS Eliot is your winner!",
^ Tony Perrottet (2011). "
Lake Geneva as Shelley and Byron Knew It".
The New York Times.
^ "Byron had yet to die to make philhellenism generally acceptable."
– Plomer (1970).
^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m "Byron as a Boy; His Mother's
Influence — His School Days and Mary Chaworth" (PDF). The New
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^ Fuegi, J; Francis, J (October–December 2003). "Lovelace &
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of Computing, IEEE (volume 25, number 4): 16–26.
^ Phillips, Ana Lena (November–December 2011). "Crowdsourcing Gender
Ada Lovelace Day, and its companion website, aims to raise the
profile of women in science and technology". American Scientist. 99
Ada Lovelace honoured by Google doodle". The Guardian. 10 December
2012. Retrieved 10 December 2012.
^ Mayne (1912), p. 7.
^ Dallas (1824), p. 99.
^ "The Gordons of Gight". Pbase.com. Retrieved 5 March 2012.
^ a b c Galt (1830), Chapter 1.
^ Boase & Courtney (1878), p. 792.
^ "...it was known to be solely with a view of relieving himself from
his debts, that Mr. Byron paid his addresses to her." Moore, Thomas,
The Works of Lord Byron: With His Letters and Journals, and His Life,
John Murray, 1835.
^ a b c d McGann (2013).
^ a b Galt (1830), Chapter 3.
^ Williamson, Martin (18 June 2005). "The oldest fixture of them all:
the annual Eton vs Harrow match". Cricinfo Magazine. Retrieved 23 July
^ MacCarthy (2002), p. 33.
^ MacCarthy (2002), p. 37.
^ MacCarthy (2002), p. 404.
^ MacCarthy (2002), p. 40.
^ "Byron [post Noel], George (Gordon),
Baron Byron (BRN805G)". A
Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
^ a b c Allen (2003).
^ MacCarthy (2002), p. 61.
^ MacCarthy (2002), p. 39.
^ a b Biography.com Editors (2016). "
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^ "Fugitive Pieces". Retrieved 2015-09-29.
^ Lord Byron. "To Mary". JGHawaii Publishing Co. Retrieved 20 November
^ a b c d e f Hoeper, Jeffrey D. (17 December 2002). "The Sodomizing
Biographer: Leslie Marchand's Portrait of Byron". Arkansas State
University. Retrieved 11 July 2008.
^ Dallas (1824), p. 18.
^ Dallas (1824), p. 46.
^ Dallas (1824), p. 55.
^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Bostridge, Mark (3 November 2002). "On
the trail of the real Lord Byron". The Independent on Sunday. London.
Retrieved 22 July 2008.
^ a b c d e Stabler (1999).
Thomas Moore Letters and Journals of Lord Byron, 1830 vol. 1, cited
in The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, ed. Susan Ratcliffe.
Oxford University Press, 2006. Oxford Reference Online.
^ Lansdown (2012).
^ Crompton (1985), pp. 123–128.
^ Blackstone (1974).
^ Byron to Moore, 8 March 1816, in Marchand vol. 5, p. 45.
^ Byron's correspondence and Journals from the Mediterranean, July
1809 – July 1811 Byron to Catherine Gordon Byron, from Gibraltar, 11
August 1809: "I left
Seville and rode on to Cadiz through a beautiful
country, at Xeres where the Sherry we drink is made I met a great
merchant a Mr Gordon of Scotland, who was extremely polite and
favoured me with the Inspection of his vaults & cellars so that I
quaffed at the Fountain head. – – Cadiz, sweet Cadiz! is the most
delightful town I ever beheld..."
^ Christensen (1993).
^ MacCarthy (2002), p. 135.
^ Tuite (2015), p. 156.
^ Rubin, Merle (1989-09-10). "A Hero to His Physician : LORD
BYRON'S DOCTOR by Paul West (Doubleday: $19.95; 352 pp.;
0-385-26129-2)". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved
Lord Byron and
Germaine de Staël
Germaine de Staël by Silvia Bordoni, The University
of Nottingham 2005
^ 'A Fragment', from Mazeppa by Lord George Byron. British Library.
^ Rigby, Mair. "'Prey to some cureless disquiet': Polidori's Queer
Vampyre at the Margins of Romanticism". Paragraph 2.
the Net, 36–37, November 2004.
^ "John Polidori & the Vampyre Byron". www.angelfire.com.
^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r Elze (1872).
^ a b c d (in Armenian) Soghomonyan, Soghomon A. "Բայրոն,
Ջորջ Նոել Գորդոն" (Byron, George Noel Gordon). Soviet
Armenian Encyclopedia. vol. ii. Yerevan, Armenian SSR: Armenian
Academy of Sciences, 1976, pp. 266–267.
^ Shelley, Percy (1964). Letters: Shelley in Italy. Clarendon Press.
^ Moore, Thomas, Letters and Journals of Lord Byron, London, 1830,
^ Prell, Donald, A Biography of Captain Daniel Roberts, Palm Springs,
CA.: Strand Publishing. 2010, p. 66.
^ Lovell (1954), p. 368.
^ Lovell (1954), p. 369.
^ a b Brewer (2011), p. 197.
^ Brewer (2011), pp. 197, 199.
^ Prell (2009a).
^ Prell (2009b).
^ Brewer (2011), p. 201.
^ Brewer (2011), p. 202.
^ a b Brewer (2011), p. 205.
^ Brewer (2011), pp. 207–208.
^ a b Brewer (2011), p. 212.
^ a b c Brewer (2011), p. 210.
^ Brewer (2011), p. 211.
^ a b c Brewer (2011), p. 213.
^ a b Brewer (2011), p. 215.
^ Brewer (2011), pp. 215–216.
^ Brewer (2011), pp. 216–217.
^ Brewer (2011), p. 216.
^ Brewer (2011), p. 217.
^ a b c Brewer (2011), p. 214.
^ a b Neil Fraistat; Steven E Jones. "The Byron Chronology". Romantic
Circles. University of Maryland. Retrieved 15 May 2012.
^ Brewer (2011), p. 219.
^ Brewer (2011), pp. 215–219.
^ Edgcumbe (1972), pp. 185–190.
^ Gamba (1975).
^ Dionysios Solomos. "Εις το Θάνατο του Λόρδου
Μπάιρον (Eng., To the Death of Lord Byron)" (in Greek).
Retrieved 20 November 2008.
^ "Heart Burial". Time. 31 July 1933. Retrieved 20 November
^ Mondragon, Brenda C. "Neurotic Poets: Lord Byron". Retrieved 20
^ Wilson, Scott. Resting Places: The Burial Sites of More Than 14,000
Famous Persons, 3d ed.: 2 (Kindle Locations 6724-6725). McFarland
& Company, Inc., Publishers. Kindle Edition.
^ Pevsner (1951), p. 85.
Westminster Abbey Poets' Corner". Dean and Chapter of the
Collegiate Church of St. Peter Westminster. Retrieved 31 May
Westminster Abbey Lord Byron". Dean and Chapter of the Collegiate
Church of St. Peter Westminster. Retrieved 27 April 2016.
^ "Byron Monument for the Abbey: Movement to Get Memorial in Poets'
Corner Is Begun" (PDF). The New York Times. 12 July 1907. Retrieved 11
^ Ripley's Believe It or Not!, 3rd Series, 1950; p. xvi.
^ Martin Wainwright, The Guardian, "
Greeks honour fallen hero Byron
with a day of his own". Retrieved 4 May 2017
^ a b Moore, Thomas, The Works of Lord Byron: With His Letters and
Journals, and His Life, John Murray, 1835.
^ Marchand (1982), p. 277.
^ Marchand (1957), p. 139.
^ Marchand (1957), p. 435.
^ a b Marchand (1957), p. 442.
^ a b Emily A. Bernhard Jackson, "Least Like Saints: The Vexed Issue
of Byron's Sexuality, The Byron Journal, (2010) 38#1 pp. 29–37.
^ Crompton (1985).
^ Crompton, Louis (8 January 2007). "Byron, George Gordon, Lord".
glbtq.com. Archived from the original on 11 April 2014. Retrieved 16
^ Contrary to later misconception, Byron was not killed in battle nor
died from battle wounds. See also The Dictionary of Misinformation
(1975) by Tom Burname, Futura Publications, 1985, pp. 39–40.
^ a b Wong, Ling-Mei (14 October 2004). "Professor to speak about his
book, 'Lady Caroline Lamb'". Spartan Daily. San Jose State University.
Retrieved 11 July 2008.
^ Castle, Terry (13 April 1997). "'Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know'".
The New York Times. Retrieved 19 November 2008.
^ "Ireland: Poetic justice at home of Byron's exiled lover". Sunday
Times: Property. Dublin, Ireland: The Times Online. 17 November 2002.
Retrieved 21 February 2010. 'Mad, bad and dangerous to know' has
become Lord Byron’s lasting epitaph.
Lady Caroline Lamb
Lady Caroline Lamb coined the
phrase after her first meeting with the poet at a society event in
^ Castle, Terry;
Phyllis Grosskurth (13 April 1997). "Mad, Bad and
Dangerous to Know". The New York Times. NYC, USA. Retrieved 21
February 2010. A biography that sees
Lord Byron as a victim of
^ a b c d Marilee Cody (?). "Lord Byron's Lovers: Lady Caroline Lamb".
Retrieved 20 November 2008.
^ Barger (2011), p. 15.
^ Marchand, Byron's Letters and Journals, 1982
^ "Mystery of Byron, an illegitimate child and Linby church", Hucknall
Dispatch, 1 June 2010.
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2009. Retrieved 5 March 2012.
^ Barr, Matt (30 September 2007). "The day I swam all the way to
Asia". The Observer. London: Guardian.co.uk. Retrieved 5 March
^ Prell (2009a), p. 13.
^ "Boatswain is dead! He expired in a state of madness on the 10th,
after suffering much, yet retaining all the gentleness of his nature
to the last, never attempting to do the least injury to anyone near
him." Marchand, Leslie A. ed. Byron's Letters and Journals (BLJ),
Johns Hopkins 2001, Letter to Francis Hodgson, 18 November 1808
^ "... the poor animal having been seized with a fit of madness, at
the commencement of which so little aware was
Lord Byron of the nature
of the malady, that more than once, with his bare hand, he wiped away
the slaver from the dog's lips during the paroxysm." Moore, Thomas.
Letters and Journals of Lord Byron, 1833.
^ Moore, Doris Langley. The Late Lord Byron. Melville House
Publishing, 1961, ch. 10.
^ "I have got a new friend, the finest in the world, a tame bear. When
I brought him here, they asked me what I meant to do with him, and my
reply was, 'he should sit for a fellowship.'" Marchand, Leslie A.
(ed.), Byron's Letters and Journals (BLJ), Johns Hopkins 2001, Letter
to Elizabeth Pigot, 26 October 1807:(BLJ I 135-6).
^ Cochran (2011), pp. 176–177.
^ Marchand (1957), p. 7.
^ MacCarthy (2002), pp. 3–4.
^ Gilmour, Ian (2003). The Making of the Poets: Byron and Shelley in
Their Time. Carroll & Graf Publishers. p. 35.
^ "For Byron, his deformed foot became the crucial catastrophe of his
life. He saw it as the mark of satanic connection, referring to
himself as le diable boiteux, the lame devil." – Eisler (1999),
^ Henley, William Ernest, ed., The works of Lord Byron: Letters,
1804–1813, Volume 1, 1897
^ a b Baron (1997).
^ David Snowdon, Writing the Prizefight: Pierce Egan's Boxiana World
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^ Dallas (1824), p. 65.
^ Byron's speech of 27 February 1812, in T.C.
Hansard (1812) The
Parliamentary Debates, vol. 21, pp. 966–972
^ a b Moore, Thomas (1829) . John Wilson Croker, ed. The Life of
Lord Byron: With His Letters and Journals. I. John Murray.
pp. 154, 676. Retrieved 20 November 2008.
^ Dallas (1824), p. 205.
^ Byron's speech of 21 April 1812, in T.C.
Hansard (1812) The
Parliamentary Debates, vol. 22, p.642-53
^ Byron's speech of 21 April 1812, in T. C.
Hansard (1812) The
Parliamentary Debates, vol. 22, p. 679.
Lord Byron (April 1823). "The Age Of Bronze". JGHawaii Publishing
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'Turdsworth'". theguardian.com. Retrieved 2 July 2014.
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Grosskurth, Phyllis: Byron: The Flawed Angel. Hodder, 1997.
Marchand, Leslie A., editor, Byron's Letters and Journals, Harvard
Volume I, 'In my hot youth', 1798–1810, (1973)
Volume II, 'Famous in my time', 1810–1812, (1973)
Volume III, 'Alas! the love of women', 1813–1814, (1974)
Volume IV, 'Wedlock's the devil', 1814–1815, (1975)
Volume V, 'So late into the night', 1816–1817, (1976)
Volume VI, 'The flesh is frail', 1818–1819, (1976)
Volume VII, 'Between two worlds', 1820, (1978)
Volume VIII, 'Born for opposition', 1821, (1978)
Volume IX, 'In the wind's eye', 1821–1822, (1978)
Volume X, 'A heart for every fate', 1822–1823, (1980)
Volume XI, 'For freedom's battle', 1823–1824, (1981)
Volume XII, 'The trouble of an index', index, (1982)
Lord Byron: Selected Letters and Journals, (1982)
McGann, Jerome: Byron and Romanticism. Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 2002. ISBN 0-521-00722-4.
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Tales. New York: Peter Lang Publishing, 1999.
Patanè, Vincenzo: L'estate di un ghiro. Il mito di Lord Byron
attraverso la vita, i viaggi, gli amori e le opere. Venezia, Cicero,
2013. ISBN 978-88-89632-39-0.
Patanè, Vincenzo: I frutti acerbi. Lord Byron, gli amori & il
sesso. Venezia, Cicero, 2016. ISBN 978-88-89632-42-0.
Rosen, Fred: Bentham, Byron and Greece. Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1992.
Thiollet, Jean-Pierre: Carré d'Art: Barbey d'Aurevilly, lord Byron,
Salvador Dalí, Jean-Edern Hallier, with texts by Anne-Élisabeth
Blateau and François Roboth[fr], Anagramme éditions, 2008.
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The Giaour (1813)
The Bride of Abydos
The Bride of Abydos (1813)
The Corsair (1814)
Lara, A Tale
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Hebrew Melodies (1815)
The Siege of Corinth (1816)
The Prisoner of Chillon
The Prisoner of Chillon (1816)
The Dream (1816)
The Lament of Tasso (1817)
Childe Harold's Pilgrimage
Childe Harold's Pilgrimage (1812-1818)
Don Juan (1819–1824; incomplete upon Byron's death in 1824)
The Prophecy of Dante (1819)
The Vision of Judgment (1821)
The Age of Bronze (1823)
The Island (1823)
Marino Faliero (1820)
The Two Foscari (1821)
Heaven and Earth (1821)
The Deformed Transformed (1822)
"The First Kiss of Love" (1806)
"Thoughts Suggested by a College Examination" (1806)
"To a Beautiful Quaker" (1807)
"The Cornelian" (1807)
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"Lachin y Gair" (1807)
"Epitaph to a Dog" (1808)
"Maid of Athens, ere we part" (1810)
"She Walks in Beauty" (1814)
"My Soul is Dark" (1815)
"The Destruction of Sennacherib" (1815)
"Fare Thee Well" (1816)
"When We Two Parted" (1817)
"Love's Last Adieu"
"So, we'll go no more a roving" (1830)
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Protocol of St. Petersburg
Treaty of London
Conference of Poros
London Protocol of 1828
London Protocol of 1829
Treaty of Adrianople
London Protocol of 1830
Treaty of Constantinople
Constantin Denis Bourbaki
Germanos III of Old Patras
Kyprianos of Cyprus
London Philhellenic Committee
François-René de Chateaubriand
Frank Abney Hastings
Carl von Heideck
Johann Jakob Meyer
Santorre di Santa Rosa
Ludwig I of Bavaria
German Legion (el)
Moldavia and Wallachia
Ottoman Empire and Egypt
Sultan Mahmud II
Nasuhzade Ali Pasha (tr)
Mahmud Dramali Pasha
Koca Hüsrev Mehmed Pasha
Reşid Mehmed Pasha
Britain, France and Russia
Henri de Rigny
Nicholas I of Russia
Nicolas Joseph Maison
Antoine Virgile Schneider
Auguste Regnaud de Saint-Jean d'Angély
Camille Alphonse Trézel
Jean Baptiste Bory de Saint-Vincent
Gaspard Auguste Brullé
Gérard Paul Deshayes
Eugène Emmanuel Amaury Duval
Peter von Hess
The Reception of
Lord Byron at Missolonghi
Greece on the Ruins of Missolonghi
The Massacre at Chios
The Free Besieged
Hymn to Liberty
The Archipelago on Fire
The Apotheosis of Athanasios Diakos
25 March (Independence Day)
Hymn to Liberty
Eleftheria i thanatos
Pedion tou Areos
Garden of Heroes (Missolonghi)
Evzones (Presidential Guard)
ISNI: 0000 0001 2103 1939
BNF: cb11894686q (data)