Lord Byron

By Jovan Stipić

"Mad, bad, and dangerous to know."

Seldom had words been used better to describe a person in such a profound yet correct manner, as were these by Lady Caroline Lamb, upon meeting the infamous Lord Byron. Her literary epitaph has stood the test of time and speaks of the very first "bad boy poet," the original Oscar Wild, and a man who seemed to be fueled by drama just as much as ego and bravado.

Portrait of Lord Byron by Richard Westall

Young, charismatic, and endlessly talented, by the age of 24 he had published some of the best pieces of poetry the world had ever seen. Daring in his adventurous lifestyle, he joined rebellions against oppressive foreign invaders in both Italy and in Greece as well as secret societies. Not to mention that his sexual adventures would cause failed marriages wherever he went, while his provocative poetry caused envy and adoration in equal kind.

Despite his outward confidence and enduring charm, he was a man wrestling with personal demons of body image issues and insecurity. Furthermore, his harsh behavior towards his family was so severe that it prompted questions about his basic humanity.

Such was his life.

The life of George Gordon Byron.

Byron was born on January 22, 1788, fittingly an Aquarius, into a family situation that even Dante might have included in his depictions of Hell. His father, known as 'Mad Jack,' squandered his wife's fortune through gambling within a year, then absconded overseas, leaving her alone with their son. One might imagine a picture of a single mother, juggling multiple jobs to care for her beloved child. However, Catherine Gordon was far from this saintly image.

Catherine Gordon, Lord Byron's mother

whenever she belittled him, even blaming her for his bad leg because she wore a corset while pregnant. Thus, they lived in their shut-off world, barely having contact with anyone, swinging from monstrous arguments to toxic co-dependency.

Yet, life held even graver hardships for both of them.

In 1791, when Byron was just three, his father passed away, leaving the two legally bound to all his debt, even debts made abroad. His only lasting achievement would be us talking about how horrible he was some 230 years after his death.

However, the young Byron never saw him as such. In his much-needed escapism, he had started seeing his father as an adventurer. Claiming him a free-spirited man unafraid to seek out his luck. Something that Byron would be much better at throughout his life, though his father hadn't really left a golden standard behind. Or rather, any standard to speak of.

That was not the end of Byron's misfortunes, however.

If everything else wasn't enough, in 1797, his mother had hired a maid, a Christian woman named Mary Gray. Like most people in Byron's life, she wasn't the sort of woman that would use her faith to self-reflect or help others. Instead, Mary would spend her days drunk, beating the young man, telling him how stupid and wretched he was.

It wasn't even among the worst things she had done to him. Starting at 9, Mary began grooming and sexually abusing Lord Byron, a sick relationship lasting over two years before he was brave enough to tell anyone.

Regrettably, he found scant redress for the abuse he endured. She was dismissed from their home, and from that point on, her actions or whereabouts remained unrecorded by history. She was never held accountable.

The trauma did not vanish with her, however. Through the years, it would become morbid acts of cruelty within Lord Byron, especially toward his female lovers. And, while his childhood does not absolve him of the stories we will tell in the future, it is important to understand exactly what he lived through in his young life. Few would have any semblance of humanity after a childhood littered with cruel women and absentee male figures. Few would even be able to be kind at all, yet fewer still would do anything with their lives. Least of all, do great things that would shape the world.

Lord Byron would become great, without a doubt, but let us not get ahead of ourselves, dear reader. We had only talked about a fragment of his life. All his glories and monstrous deeds are yet to be covered.

As it should be, dear reader, all is not doom and gloom, not even for Lord Byron, which is exactly what we will cover in the next part of our story.

Until next time.