George Gordon Byron, 6th Baron Byron (January 22, 1788 - April 19, 1824), usually referred to simply as Lord Byron, was a prolific British poet whose most famous works include the long narrative poem Childe Harold's Pilgrimage and the unfinished mock-heroic epic poem Don Juan. He was very famous during his lifetime, not only as a result of his poetry but also because of his scandalous affairs with married women and allegations of mistreatment of his own wife. He was famously described by his lover Lady Caroline Lamb as, "mad, bad and dangerous to know."
Byron left England in 1816 never to return, spending many years in Italy. He died in Greece where he had gone to fight for Greek independence from the Ottoman Empire. He is till considered a hero by many Greeks. Vyron (a Greek version of his name) has become a common Greek male first name and a suburb of Athens is named Vyronas in his memory.
George Gordon Byron was the son of British Army officer Captain John "Mad Jack" Byron and his third wife Catherine Gordon, a Scottish heiress who had to sell her land and title to pay her husband's debts. Captain Byron abandonned his wife and son in 1790, after having spent all of Catherine Gordon's money, and died a year later.
The young George Gordon Byron was brought up by his mother in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. When he was ten years old he inherited the title of Lord Byron after death of his great-uncle. The title came with an estate, Newstead Abbey in Nottinghamshire, England, although Lord Byron spent little time there. It was rented out to other occupants during most of Byron's life. Byron was educated in Aberdeen, Scotland and Dulwich, London before attending the famous Harrow school and studying at Trinity College, Cambridge. He played in the first Eton versus Harrow cricket match in 1805.
Byron's first volumes of poetry, Fugitive Pieces and Hours of Idleness, were published before he was twenty-one and contained poems which he had written when he was only fourteen. He became a well known poet after the publication of the first two cantos of Childe harold's Pilgrimage in 1812. Byron himself said, "I woke up one morning and found myself famous."
Byron left Great Britain for the first time in 1808. He spent the years between 1808 and 1811 in Portugal, Spain, Albania, Greece and Turkey.
Byron had very public and scandalous affairs with the married women Lady Caroline Lamb and Lady Jane Elizabeth Scott. On January 2, 1815 he married Anne Isabella Milbanke. The marriage was not a happy one and the couple legally separated on April 21, 1816. Late in her life, Byron's former wife met with the American writer Harriet Beecher Stowe and told her about how her husband had mistreated her. Beecher Stowe wrote an account of her allegations.
Anne Isabella Milbanke and Lord Byron had one daughter Augusta Ada, later Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace. She was a talented mathematician who went on to work with Charles Babbage on the development of the analytical engine, the forerunner of the computer.
Following the breakdown of his marriage in 1816, Byron left England never to return. He spent the summer of 1816 in Villa Diodati near Lake Geneva, Switzerland with other guests including the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley and Shelley's future wife Mary Godwin. Due to bad weather, the guests amused themsleves by reading ghost stories and decided to write similar stories themselves. Mary Godwin later expanded her story into the novel Frankenstein.
Byron spent the years between 1816 and 1823 in Venice, Rome and Genoa, He continued to have numerous very public affairs and possibly fathered more children. In 1823, despite a lack of previous military experience, he was persuaded to go to Greece to join in the fight for Greek independence from the Ottoman Turks. In January 1824 he contracted a fever and died on April 19, 1824 in Messolonghi, Greece.
The body of Lord Byron was returned to England. He was refused burial at Westminster Abbey because of his dubiousl moral character and was buried in the town of Hucknall in Nottinghamshire. Ada Lovelace, the daughter he barely knew, was later buried next to Lord Byron at her request. A monument to Lord Byron was eventually placed in Westminster Abbey in 1969.