Lord Byron - Part 2

By Jovan Stipić

Hello there, dear reader! Have you been looking forward to my next piece? I bet you have, just as I've eagerly anticipated your return. After all, what's a writer without their dedicated audience, or an audience without a reliable writer?

But enough about me, you’re here for our dear Lord Byron.

Portrait of young Lord Byron

When we last left him, Byron had gotten through one of the most traumatic childhoods put to paper. He was abandoned by his father, traumatized by his mother, and sexually assaulted and humiliated by his nanny, all before the age of twelve. This time, we will focus on something more positive, mainly Lord Byron’s rise to fame.

People often say that fortunes do not change overnight. While this might be true, we would not conclude such a thing in the life of Lord Byron. His life was turned completely around in a single day (May 12, 1798). His uncle, a terrible man known in history as the “Wicked Lord,” passed away, leaving his whole fortune to the young Byron. Amongst the riches was a villa, “Newstead Abbey.” It was so big it would have made a king blush.

Newstead Abbey - home of Lord Byron

Byron fell in love with the place immediately. Sure, he first had to rent the place to pay back all his debts, but those went away quickly with his newfound fortune. At the same time, he left his wretched home and mother, and Byron started meeting new and exciting people. The first to catch his eye was none other than his cousin, Margaret Parker.

Beautiful and enchanting, and even more importantly, kind and soft-spoken, Margaret knocked Byron off his feet. Unbeknownst to her, this would cause a chain reaction that would change the history of poetry forever. She did what no other woman could before. In Byron’s life, she made him feel safe. Thus, inspired by such a woman, he did something he had never done before.

He wrote his first poem.

But it was not yet to be. His fame needed to wait a while longer because it was then that his mother sent him to Harrow, a boarding school for troubled children that was filled with bullies. The young boys seized the opportunity and made Byron’s life a living hell when they saw his deformed leg. It was also then that Byron found a new filter in his life for all his frustrations.

No, not sex, though that would come later.

For him, it was food. Byron had started eating enormous portions of food from then on, and even throughout the rest of his life. His weight would fluctuate between obese and sickly thin. Those close to him knew he had switched to tobacco and sex whenever he became thin again.

Having seen what his life was up to this point, one would expect something lavish and extravagant to happen, but there was another traumatizing period around the corner.

By 1805, Byron had been accepted into Cambridge, where his love for poetry and books only seemed to grow. Yet, by then, Byron was aware of his attraction to both men and women. It wasn’t until he enrolled in Cambridge that he started earnestly pursuing his hedonistic desires for both sexes.

It was then that, according to Byron, he fell in love with a man for the first time, even though we know that he had laid with men before. That first love was a choir boy named John Edleston, two years his junior.

To quote the man himself, he loved the boy with a “violent, though pure love and passion,” probably meaning that John did not return his feelings. The poets of the time often used the word “pure” for unrequited love, meaning nothing had ever happened between the two a poem or a story tells us about.

It would also start a pattern in Byron’s life where he would fall in love with beautiful straight men and have his feelings rejected. The mere fact that he had the bravery to make his feelings known back then bordered on lunacy. One that a person can only have, of course, when truly in love.

Back in the 19th century homosexuality was punishable by death. So, Byron had to invent a female name in his poems about John just to hide the fact that he had feelings for him. But it wasn’t his poetry about unrequited love that had made Byron so famous.

But that is a tale for part 3, as I cannot take up any more of your time. It is summer, and one should not waste all one’s time reading blog posts about dead poets when the sun awaits us all outside. No matter how charming the writer of the blog post may be.

I bid you farewell, and I shall see you again.