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  More than 5000 entries on the history, culture and life of Britain (published in 1993 by Macmillan, now out of print)

More than 5000 entries on the history, culture and life of Britain (published in 1993 by Macmillan, now out of print)
Lord Byron

(George Gordon Byron, 1788–1824, 6th baron 1798)
Poet and outstanding figure of the *Romantic movement, whose life and work reflect in heightened form the turmoil of excitement and despair in the early decades of the 19C. At the age of ten he inherited the family title and a romantic ruin of a house, Newstead Abbey near Nottingham. He was educated at Harrow and Cambridge, where he made a life-long friend, John Cam Hobhouse. Together they set off in 1809 on a tour through Spain and Greece to Turkey. It provided the material for the poem which in 1812 brought Byron instant fame, *Childe Harold's Pilgrimage.

He became by far the most alluring young man in London: a moody bestselling poet, good-looking but with one pitiable physical defect (usually described as a club foot, but its nature is medically uncertain); a wildly unconventional peer with radical views (his maiden speech in the House of Lords in 1812 was a passionate plea on behalf of the *Nottingham weavers); and a bisexual lover notorious for numerous adventures. He began an affair with Lady Caroline Lamb, who famously described him as 'mad, bad, and dangerous to know'. Soon there were rumours, probably correct, that he was having an incestuous relationship with his half-sister, Augusta Leigh.

Marriage in 1815 to the 22-year-old Anne Milbanke may have seemed something of an escape, but only a year later, after the birth of a daughter, she insisted on a separation, hinting that there were dark unspecified reasons. Byron's pleasant notoriety was curdling into scandal, and he went abroad in April 1816. He never returned to Britain. He lived mainly in Italy, starting to write *Don Juan in Venice in 1818 and witnessing the cremation of *Shelley on the beach at Viareggio in 1822. In July 1823 he sailed for Greece to join the battle for independence from the Turks. At Missolonghi, in April 1824, he died of a fever. Newstead Abbey, 18km/11m north of Nottingham, is kept as a museum.

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