In his lifetime he became famous for his personality cult as much as for his poetry.
He was, after all, the man who claimed to have bedded 200 women and was rumoured to have had an incestuous relationship with his half-sister Augusta Leigh, and who displayed many of the characteristics which classified his ancestors as eccentrics.
Surely, together with his mistress Lady Caroline Lamb (who described him as ‘mad, bad and dangerous to know’) they became the first ‘celebrity couple’.
It follows then that it would not be difficult to portray Byron as a defiant, melancholy young man, brooding on some mysterious, unforgivable event in his past – but this would only tell half the story.
Reading his works and revelatory letters, one may come to look upon him as a genius who had an immense influence on poetry, music, opera and the arts generally. He was reviled and revered in equal measure -- castigated for his loose morals yet respected for standing up to the establishment and rebelling against injustice and oppression.
Byron contracted a fever from which he died in Missolonghi, Greece on 19 April 1824. Memorial services were held all over the land.
Byron's body was returned to England but refused by the deans of both Westminster Abbey and St Paul's Cathedral. Finally Byron's coffin was placed in the family vault at Hucknall Torkard, near Newstead Abbey in Nottinghamshire.
Of all his works, this poem is my particular favourite….She Walks in Beauty…..
She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that's best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes:
Thus mellowed to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.
One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impaired the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o'er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express
How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.
And on that cheek, and o'er that brow,
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent!