Lord Byron Questions and Answers

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Who was Lord Byron? What are three interesting facts about him?

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Byron was a prominent figure in both literature and society in the early 19th century, as well as a close friend and associate of other Romantic poets including John Keats and Percy Bysshe Shelley. Famous poems of his include "She Walks In Beauty (Like the Night)" and "Childe Harold's Pilgrimage." Perhaps even more than his works, however, it is Byron's reputation which has survived him and which made him a celebrity in his lifetime.

Byron is such a wealth of interesting facts, it's difficult to know where to start! Never one to stick to the rules, he supposedly kept a tame bear as a pet when a student at Cambridge, pointing to a loophole in the college statutes which did not, he said, ban bears specifically.

His home, Newstead Abbey, which he inherited from a great-uncle, could have been specifically designed as the archetypal Gothic house. A former monastery, it is supposedly haunted by numerous ghosts, including a murdered monk. Byron was absolutely wedded to the crumbling house, declaring that he and it "stand together," although ultimately he sunk a huge amount of his money into its upkeep.

Perhaps most notoriously, Byron had an incestuous affair with his half-sister Augusta Leigh; it is generally thought that he left England because of the rumors at home on this score, particularly after Augusta gave birth to a child shortly afterward. Byron visited the child and pronounced relief that it was "not an ape" but "worthwhile"—that is, not deformed as he might have expected of a child of incest.

Byron only had one legitimate child, but she was most certainly "worthwhile." His daughter, Augusta Ada Byron, later known as Ada Lovelace, was the mother of modern computing and gives her name to the computer programming language ADA.

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Lord Byron, an English poet of the early 19th Century, was a prominent figure within the Romantic literary movement. His two best-known poems were Don Juan and Childe Harold's Pilgrimage. He was as prominent in English society 200 years ago as any major rock star is today.

He was close friends with Percy Bysshe Shelley, a fellow Romantic poet, and Shelley's girlfriend (later wife) Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley. One summer night in 1816, the three of them (along with Dr. John Polidori and Mary's sister Claire Claremont) stayed at Byron's estate in Geneva, Switzerland and had a writing contest. They had one night to write a horrifying story. Mary wrote a short draft that later became Frankenstein. (Polidori wrote a vampire story; Byron and Shelley's stories amounted to very little.)

Byron had scandalous affairs with many prominent women. One of them, Lady Caroline Lamb, described him as "mad, bad and dangerous to know." From this, we get the adjective "Byronic."

Byron had a club foot. Despite this, he went on late in his life (He died at age 36) to be something of a war hero in Greek's war of independence from the Ottoman Empire (modern Turkey). He had no military experience, but his personal wealth helped the movement immensely. He got sick and died during the war (However bad his illness was, the primitive state of medicine at the time is likely what killed him). He is considered a hero to Greeks to this day.

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